For many people from many different countries, obtaining a green card and legally living and working in the United States is the fulfillment of a life-long dream. However, reaching that coveted goal is not something that happens quickly, and, in most cases, it takes many years and extensive paperwork, depending on the applicant’s individual situation. Let the team of immigration lawyers at the Florida Immigration Law Counsel help you determine the most favorable route for you to get your green card.
Green Card Eligibility
To be eligible to apply for a green card, you must qualify for one of these categories:
Green Card Through Family
You may be eligible to apply through this category if you are an immediate relative of an American citizen, such as their spouse, minor child, or parent. Also, if you are a close family member of someone who is a green card holder, if you are the fiancé of a U. S. citizen or their child, the widow or widower of an American citizen, or through other family categories that your immigration attorney from the Florida Immigration Law Counsel will explain if you qualify for.
Green Card Through Employment
A Green Card through employment can be obtained if you are an immigrant worker with special skills, work in a certain profession or have outstanding abilities. You may also qualify if you are an individual investor wishing to start a commercial enterprise in this country while creating employment for at least ten qualifying employees.
Other Categories for Green Cards
You may also qualify for a green card if you are a special kind of immigrant, such as a religious worker, or maybe seeking asylum or a refugee. Also, if you have been the victim of human trafficking, the victim of abuse, or if you fall into other categories which your immigration attorney can explain to you.
Applying for a Green Card
Once you have determined you are eligible to apply for a green card through one of the categories described above, you should start by completing form I-485. If you are being sponsored for your green card by a relative or an employer, they must file this form for you. Other forms that may come into play are form I-130 for cases where you are petitioning for a relative, form I-140 when you are petitioning a worker, form I-730 for asylum seekers or refugees, or form I-360 for widows, widowers, or other special immigrants.
Applying from Inside or Outside the United States
Depending on where you are located physically, your green card application can begin when you are outside of the country or in it. However, if the application is being done from the United States, you should apply for an adjustment of status with the USCIS using form I-485.
If you are located outside the country when you start your green card application, you should go to your nearest local U. S. Department of State consulate and apply for an immigrant visa to be allowed to come into the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This path is known as consular processing.
If you are applying through consular processing, these are the steps that must be followed:
File your petition
Once you have determined your category for eligibility for a green card, your sponsor will use the applicable form and file it on your behalf while you remain at your country of residence.
Wait for a decision on your petition
Your petition may be approved, or you may be notified that the petition was denied. If it is rejected, the reasons for the denial would be included in the notice you receive and information on whether you are allowed to appeal this decision. If you are living abroad, the approved petition will be sent to the Department of State’s National Visa Center when your petition is approved. It will remain until there is an immigrant visa number available for you.
Wait for a notification from the National Visa Center and go to your appointment
The National Visa Center will let you know when your petition has been received. You will also be informed when you would have to send in your visa processing fees and any additional supporting documentation. Let them know if you change your address, if you turn 21, or if your marital status changes.
Once your visa becomes available, your consular office will inform you about the date of your interview. After the interview, your case will be processed, and it will be decided whether you have been deemed eligible to receive the green card.
Your Visa is Granted
Once your visa is granted, you will receive a packet of information. It is important for you not to open this packet until you arrive in the United States and hand it over to a U. S. Customs and Border Protection agent at your port of entry. The officer will inspect the packet and decide on whether to admit you as a lawful permanent resident. This status allows you to live and work in the United States permanently.
Don’t forget to pay your immigration fee. You can do this online once you receive your packet and before embarking on your journey to the United States.
You Receive Your Green Card
Once you are in the United States, it may take up to 45 days to receive your physical green card. If more than this time goes by without you getting it, let your immigration lawyer from the Florida Immigration Law Counsel know so that they may reach out to the USCIS and discover what is causing the delay.
Preparing For Your Green Card Interview
Whether you are applying for a green card in the United States or while abroad, the interview is a very important part of the process. One that could play a defining role in your application being accepted or denied. The immigration authorities, whether in your local consulate or embassy or at a USCIS office, will meet with you and review your application materials and ask any questions they consider relevant to the process. The type and number of questions you will be asked depend on the kind of green card category through which you are applying.
There is a big difference when applying to receive a green card through marriage than if an employer is sponsoring you. In cases of a green card application through marriage, the purpose of the questions is to uncover whether this is a real marriage or if there is any fraud in the information you are submitting. On the other hand, employer-sponsored applications are much more clear-cut since you may already be in the country working for your employer and may currently have a work permit such as an H-1B visa.
Here is a list of the most common questions you may be asked during the interview. Prepare by knowing the answer to all of them and answering quickly and clearly during the interview:
- What is your name? Did you bring a picture ID?
- Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
- Have you ever committed a crime or been arrested?
- Have you ever voted in a U. S. election?
- Have there been any changes in your life since your application was filed?
If you are applying for a green card through marriage, the officer questioning you will want to make sure you do know the other person, and you can prove that you are legally married by your answers. That is why you may be asked these questions:
- Where did you meet?
- Where and when did you get married? (They may also want to know the number of guests, what you had for dinner, and anything else that may confirm that this event effectively took place).
- Did you bring any additional documents? (This may include tax returns, pay stubs, or other evidence that you are sharing a life).
Why did I get called for a second interview for my green card?
Although unusual, you can be called in for a second interview. If the officers reviewing your case still have doubts or suspicions as to the validity of your case or your documents, you and your spouse may be asked in for a further interview. During this time, the probing will be much more intense. You definitely want your immigration attorney from the Florida Immigration Law Counsel by your side at this time. We are prepared to handle any follow-up matters that may arise.
During this interview, which will be longer and more detailed, you and your spouse will be separated and asked the same questions. You should both give the same answers. They may want to know such intimate facts as what kind of birth control you are using, or where do you go when you take a day off, what your favorite food is, and they may even ask you to show them your house keys to make sure they match.
Your immigration lawyer from the Florida Immigration Law Counsel will walk you through all the steps in your green card application process, including possible questions you may be asked during your interview. Give us a call today to get started.