For most people, there are three ways to get green card: employment,
national interest waiver, and family relationship.
There are different categories:
First: Priority workers, usually for university professors.
Second: Members of the professions holding advanced degrees
or persons of exceptional ability. People with a master's degree
and some work experience can easily qualify.
Third: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.
Fourth: Certain special immigrants.
Fifth: Employment creation.
The process is basically the same:
- Get a job offer, and make sure your employer can sponsor your
green card process.
- Get H-1 visa from INS. Your job needs to have something to do
with your education and experience.
- Apply for a labor certificate from the Labor Department of your
state, who will forward your application to the US Department
of Labor for approval. The labor department requires that your
job be advertised for a certain amount of time, and no US citizen
has qualified for the job. Your lawyer and employer can show evidence
that this was already done before you were hire, and use something
called "reduction in recruitment" to speed up the process.
- File immigration petition (I-140) to INS.
- File adjustment of status (I-485) to INS. You need to meet the
priority date for your category in order to file I-485. For the
current priority dates, look at the Department
of State Visa Bulletin. When filing I-485, you can apply for
employment authorization for both your spouse and yourself. With
that, your spouse can work freely in the US, and you can still
work even when your H-1 visa has expired, or take part-time employment
besides keeping your current job.When filing I-485, you need to
provide your birth certificate, evidence showing you have not
been "out of status," and go through a physical examination
and immunization process.
- Finger print. You will receive a notice from INS to go to a
local office for finger prints, which will be submitted to FBI
for checking of criminal record. About 10 days after you did the
finger print, you can call FBI at (304)625-5590 to check on the
status. Sometimes you need to re-do the finger print. It can
take INS months to tell you that you need to re-do it. By checking
with FBI directly, you can find it out early and contact your
local office to get it done.
National Interest Waiver
If you are studying or working in a field that is considered important
for the national interest of the US (e.g. environmental studies,
medical research, etc.), and you have published papers in that field,
you might be eligible for immigration through national interest
waiver. You don't need employer sponsorship. But you do need recommendation
letters from both your professors and preferably from people in
a US government agency.
The categories are:
First: Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens.
Second: A.) Spouses and children, and B.) Unmarried sons
and daughters (21 years or older) of permanent residents.
Third: Married sons and daughters of citizens.
Fourth: Brothers and sisters of adult citizens.
The process is very slow for the third and fourth categories. It
can take over 10 years.