Do You Qualify for a Green Card?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on March 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Many immigrants come to the United States looking to build their own version of the American dream. But out of all of those immigrants, who qualifies for a green card?

Green card eligibility may come from different facets of a person's life.

Congress has given top priority to those who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. But that's not the only way to qualify for a green card. Here are some of the most common ways to become eligible for a green card:

  • Family. Relatives of U.S. citizens are given top priority, and are eligible to file green card petitions. "Immediate family" is defined, in order of priority, as spouses (including recent widows), unmarried children under 21, parents of citizens, some stepchildren and stepparents, and adopted children (if the adoption took place before the child turned 16). Non-immediate family members may also petition, though the process may be slower.

  • Workers. Like the "family" category, job-based eligibility for green cards is also broken down into a priority list. Preference is usually given to those workers who have special, unique or advanced skills. Other workers that may qualify can include professionals with advanced degrees or extraordinary ability, or skilled workers and those holding religious jobs.

  • Green card "lottery" winners. The U.S. government usually makes a limited number of green cards available each year through a lottery that is designed to promote ethnic diversity. These lotteries give preference to those who are from countries that have the least number of immigrants coming over to the United States.

  • Asylum. Some immigrants may qualify for green cards if they seek asylum and refuge in the United States. Those who seek asylum and refuge are often those subject to persecution on the basis of a protected category such as race, nationality, religion, or political stance.

There are other ways that immigrants may obtain green card eligibility, such as through special programs, even if they don't fit into one of the categories above. If you're still wondering about who qualifies for a green card, speaking to an experienced immigration attorney may help answer your immigration-related questions.

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