For some, knowledge about the US Green Card is limited to the 1990s film with Andie MacDowell and Gerérard Depardieu. If that’s the case, don’t worry we’re here to deliver some quick facts and general guidelines about the Green Card application process and dispel some of the Hollywood myths. Here are the top five things you need to know:
1. Always consult a licensed attorney before starting any Green Card process
Due to the sheer amount of possible variables and paths to take toward obtaining permanent residence in the US, there is no one size fits all and it can be challenging to navigate. Given this, the first step in the process should be to consult an immigration attorney to inquire as to what, if any, roads to a Green Card might exist. Fortunately we happen to know some pretty stellar immigration lawyers who can guide you. As a first step, new applicants should schedule a 30 minute consultation to determine options and tailored approach to the process.
2. You Can Still Apply for a Green Card Even If You Are Not Currently Residing in the US
Just as you may apply for a temporary visa (such an an O-1 or H1-B) prior to you moving to the US, you may also apply for a Green Card from your country of origin. Also, an important distinction to note; simply living in the US for a certain amount of time does not entitle you to a Green Card. While other countries aside from the US do offer options to applicants that are gainfully employed, paying taxes and following rules, there is no similar physical presence pathway to residence that exists within the US. Regardless of your status, contributions, duration of time in the country or physical address, current temporary residents must follow the same process and steps as any other applicant not already in the US. Long story short, there are no short cuts. Sorry!
3. There Are Several Different Paths To Obtaining a Green Card
It’s more of a “choose your own adventure” rather than a standard and repeatable process. Every case will be different and the approach to the application process will vary depending on each individual. For example, you may choose to file your Green Card application as part of the diversity lottery, for political reasons, marriage status, and so on. Possible tracks might also include applying through a US citizen or permanent resident, immediate family member, through an employer that wants to sponsor you or, if you are super extraordinary, you can sponsor yourself!
4. Apply for Your Green Card Before Your Temporary Visa Expires
This one seems like a no-brainer but it’s worth repeating. Even if you have already demonstrated your extraordinary ability, if you are an artist visa holder for example, a Green Card approval is not a foregone conclusion. For this reason, it’s a good rule of thumb to apply for an extension on your temporary visa if it is close to expiration even with your Green Card application in the works.
5. Green Card Holders Are Able To Live Permanently in the US with No Restrictions (aside from the ability to vote)
Green Card holders can start a business, employ others, obtain most loans and many other benefits that temporary visa holders are not eligible to pursue. The only caveat is that as a Green Card holder, you are not a US citizen and therefore do not hold the right to vote in local, state or federal elections.
As you might have discovered, there are many different ways to approach the Green Card application process and all are unique to the individual applying. If you have additional questions, want to learn more about the process or to schedule a consultation for your case, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.