An official Permanent Resident Card, commonly referred to as a Green Card, authorizes an immigrant to live and work permanently in the United States. This card was named after its color when first issued shortly after World War II.
Who Is Eligible to Apply for a Green Card?
To apply, you will need a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident (LPR), or an employer to act as your sponsor. You may be able to apply without a sponsor in certain circumstances, including:
- as an abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or an LPR,
- as a preferred immigrant worker with an advanced degree, qualified skills, other training, or experience,
- as a physician willing to work in an underserved area of the U.S.,
- as an investor able to invest capital and create at least ten new jobs in the U.S.,
- as a religious worker,
- as a special immigrant juvenile abused, abandoned, or neglected by his/her parents,
- as a qualified Afghan or Iraq national,
- as a member of a qualified international organization,
- as a person holding a refugee or an asylum status for at least one year,
- as crime victim or victim of human trafficking.
To apply for a Green Card while in the U.S., you must have entered on a visa either given to you by the U.S. Consulate or your own country’s consulate. The home government issuing a visa gives the recipient the right to go to the border or a port of entry to request authorized admittance to the United States.
Visa Availability by Category
Issuing a visa involves consular-processing for applicants outside of the U.S. and adjustment-of-status-processing for applicants who are already in the U.S. Either way, the issuance of the visa depends in part on whether there is a visa available in the applicant’s category.
The Department of State (DOS) has published these worldwide limits by category for visas issued in fiscal year 2018. They include:
Family Visas (Amount Available) Sponsor /Relationship
- F1 (23,400) U.S. Citizen/Unmarried Adult Children
- F2A (8,7934) LPR/Spouses & Minor Children
- F2B (26,266) LPR/Unmarried Adult Children
- F3 (23,400) U.S. Citizen/Married Adult Children
- F4 (65,000)U.S. Citizen/Brothers & Sisters
For a total of 226,000 family visas in 2018.
Employment Visas (Amount Available) Eligibility
- E1 (40,040) Persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, science, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives and managers.
- E2 (40,040) Members of professions holding advanced degrees, or persons of exceptional abilities in the arts, science, or business.
- E3/EW (40,040) Skilled workers with at least two years of training or experience, professionals with college degrees, or “other” workers for unskilled labor that is not temporary or seasonal.
- E4/SR (9,940) Certain “special immigrants” including religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, former U.S. government employees, and other classes of aliens.
- E5 (9,940) Persons who will invest $500,000 to $1 million in a job-creating enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers.
For a total of 140,000 employment-related visas in 2018.
Prospects for Immigration Law Changes
The current environment surrounding American immigration law is in a greater state of flux than at any time since the 1986 passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act introduced in 2017 in the U.S. Senate would reduce the annual number of Green Cards issued and legal immigration to the U.S. by 50%. It would also impose a cap on refugee immigration at 50,000 annually and would do away with the visa lottery altogether.
In addition, the RAISE Act would replace the eligibility categories above for employment-related visas with a new point system weighted in favor of relatively higher paying jobs, English test scores, younger ages (max points for being 25), degrees earned in STEM, capital investment in the U.S., and extraordinary achievements such as winning a Nobel Prize. While the RAISE Act may not gain the support required for passage, its basic ideas may influence legislative alternatives throughout the remainder of the 115th Congress.
At best, applying for a Green Card and pursuing U.S. citizenship is a complicated process. Competent legal representation, always an important factor for success, has never been more crucial than in these uncertain times. We strongly recommend reaching out to our New York immigration attorneys at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP, for a consultation about your unique situation. Give us a call at 212-203-4795 or schedule an appointment online.