Paths to Permanent Residency
In the United States, there are multiple ways to become a permanent resident of the country. Your options are:
- Green card — If you obtain a green card, you can live and work in the United States and will be on the path to becoming a citizen. Although a green card is the precursor to becoming a permanent resident of the United States, certain restrictions are placed on you, such as the inability to vote and the threat of deportation if you are convicted of certain crimes. Some green cards last ten years, but conditional green cards last only two, and carry additional requirements.
- Certificate of Naturalization — After you have your green card for five years — or three if you are married to a U.S. citizen — you can apply for a Certificate of Naturalization. Our firm assists you with the applications and the interviews that follow to make the process go smoothly. Unlike a green card, naturalized residents are afforded the right to vote and cannot be deported for a crime.
- Certificate of Citizenship — A Certificate of Citizenship is given to children under the age of 18 born abroad but have parents who are U.S. citizens. Our firm obtains the proper forms and documentation for you to get your Certificate of Citizenship, which will allow you to live permanently in the United States.
- Amnesty — Amnesty allows people who entered the United States illegally to have their status adjusted so they can be on the path to citizenship. If you entered the country without inspection before 2001, you may be eligible for an amnesty exception. We determine if you meet the guidelines and help you toward permanent residency.
Obtaining a Green Card
In the United States, a green card allows immigrants to live and work in the country, and it can be the first step toward permanent citizenship. The different types of green cards are:
- Family-based — If you are related to a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, parent, child or sibling, you can apply for a family-based visa, which can be upgraded to a green card after approval. To apply for a family-based green card you will need to fill out the I-130 forms.
- Employment-based — When you are offered permanent employment in the United States, you can be sponsored for a green card by your employer. Your or your employer’s attorney can assist in filling out the necessary I-485 paperwork.
- Asylum — When citizens of another country have a fear of persecution or violence upon returning to their homes, the United States can offer asylum status. A year after your asylum is established, you and your family can apply for a green card. An attorney can help you complete the I-589 forms.
If your case meets one of these three sets of qualifications, you can apply for a green card.
You will need to get your documents translated into English before you go to your review at the U.S. Embassy. These translations must be certified. You will need to submit the originals as well as the translations to the National Visa Center, a sort of intermediary between the USCIS and the Embassy, before you go to your Embassy review.
Your spouse and children can almost always be included on a green card application. You must begin, however, by applying as an individual. The applicant is the principal beneficiary. After your initial petition is approved, you can name your spouse and children as derivative beneficiaries. If they are already in the U.S., you can go through final processing together. If they are outside of the U.S., they can go through processing separately, after you’ve obtained your green card.
If your father is a U.S. citizen or green card holder, he can sponsor you for a green card. This is the case even if his name isn’t on your birth certificate. In this situation, you might need to provide a DNA test, and evidence that you have had an emotional relationship. Cards or letters, money orders, or other forms of documented communication would count.
For an employer to sponsor a foreign national for a green card, the employer would have to demonstrate inability to find a qualified U.S. worker. The employer may demonstrate this by running ads in a local paper. The employer then must demonstrate the ability to pay your wage, generally by presenting tax returns.
If you are facing persecution in your home country, you can apply for asylum within one year after your arrival in the U.S. You can also apply if you are directly at risk because of revolution or religious or political violence in your country, as well as persecution from a gang. If you can demonstrate changed circumstances in your home country – for example, a revolution – you may apply after being in the U.S. for one year. In any case, you will need to provide documentation supporting your fears. An experienced immigration attorney can help you compile the evidence you need.
- You will need to get your documents translated into English before you go to your review at the U.S. Embassy. These translations must be certified.
A Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card holder”) could remain a green card holder, or petition to become an American citizen. To become eligible to apply for citizenship, you must be at least 18 years old, you must have been a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years (or three if you are married to a U.S. citizen), without any significant absences (6 months or more). Additionally, you must satisfy the following:
- Evidence of good moral character.
- Establish knowledge of U.S. history and government.
- Demonstrate the ability to read and write basic English.
- Establish knowledge of and attachment to the U.S. Constitution.
When a client has an initial consultation, the attorney should gather as much information as possible in order to set forth realistic expectations. Before proceeding with a naturalization application, it is important to know if a client has been subject to any past legal problems, such as an arrest, taxation issues, or a period when the person fell out of status. An attorney can accompany the applicant to the naturalization interview, which is especially helpful if English is not a client’s strongest language. If a client cannot speak English at all, an attorney may be able to file a medical exception. If you have had a green card for 20 years and are at least 50 years old, or 15 years and are at least 55 years old, you will still have to pass the history and civics part of the citizenship test, but can take the test in your native language. A mental or physical disability might also be grounds for an exemption.
- To become eligible to apply for citizenship, you must be at least 18 years old, you must have been a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years (or three if you are married to a U.S. citizen), without any significant absences (6 months or more).