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How to Qualify for a Green Card
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How to Qualify for a Green Card

There are several different options that you may be eligible for to obtain your lawful permanent resident card or green card which may lead to citizenship:

  • an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, this includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older
  • a family member of a U.S. citizen fitting into a preference category, this includes unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older
  • a family member of a green card holder, this includes spouses and unmarried children of the sponsoring green card holder
  • a member of a special category, this can include battered spouse or child (VAWA), a K nonimmigrant, a person born to a foreign diplomat in the United States, a V nonimmigrant or a widow(er) of a U.S. Citizen
  • a fiancee Visa

To promote family unity, immigration law allows U.S. citizens to petition for certain qualified relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. Eligible immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s:

Spouse
Unmarried child under the age of 21
Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)

Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories.

U.S. citizens who want their relatives to immigrate to the United States can file a Form I 130, Petition for Alien Relative, for their spouse, children and if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old, their parents and brothers or sisters.

Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, defined as one’s spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents, always have a visa number immediately available and are discussed in the Green Card for an Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen link to the left.

If your relationship does not qualify you as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, then you may be in what is called a family preference category. Eligible relatives include:

  • Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
  • Married child(ren) of any age
  • Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)
  • Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available.