If you aren't a green card holder (a legal permanent resident), you face many challenges. You may have great trouble finding a job. You may not be able to rent a place to live. You won't be able to sponsor family members to come to America. Most importantly, you may be deported from the U.S.
All this means that getting a green card is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. But how do you qualify? What does it take to become a permanent resident?
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lists the requirements you must meet to be eligible for a green card. Here are the basics:
- You can't be considered a threat to the U.S. If you are believed to be a terrorist or a criminal, it's unlikely that you will be admitted to the country. Likewise, you may be considered inadmissible if you crossed the border illegally.
- You must fit into an eligible category. Most people who obtain green cards are able to do so because a spouse, parent or child is already a U.S. citizen. However, if a family-based petition isn't possible, you may be able to seek a green card through an employer. If you can claim asylum or refugee status, you may also qualify for a green card.
- Someone must file a petition for you. Typically, it will be a family member filing the immigrant petition on your behalf. If you are seeking an employment-based green card, however, it will have to be your employer who files the petition.
- You must get a visa. If your immediate family member petitions for you, you will automatically get a visa. If you are seeking permanent residency status through another route, you may have to wait a while for a visa to become available.
Are you worried that you don't qualify?
Even if you think that you don't meet the requirements above, it doesn't hurt to set up a free consultation with a lawyer. A Georgia attorney skilled in immigration law can advise you about all your options - including ones you may not know about. For instance, even if you entered the country illegally, an attorney might be able to help you get a waiver so that you can still pursue a green card. Consider setting up a consultation today.