Green card holders enjoy the rights to live and work permanently in the United States. After holding permanent resident status for 5 years (3 years if married to a U.S. citizen), green card holders are eligible to become U.S. citizens through the process of naturalization.
There are a number of different ways that you may qualify to apply for a green card, including an application through a family member (such parent, spouse or sibling) or through an employer. You might also qualify if you have been granted refugee or asylum status, have been the victim of a crime in the United States, or have been abused by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent.
If you are outside the United States, then you may qualify to apply for an immigrant visa. After entering the United States on an immigrant visa, you will receive your green card.
In order to qualify for green card status while in the United States, you must meet certain requirements. Some of the most important requirements include:
- You must have entered the United States lawfully. There are certain exceptions (waivers) to this requirement.
- Your permission to remain in the United States must not have expired. There are exceptions to this requirement, depending on your family relationship.
- You cannot be inadmissible based on certain criminal convictions.
You may qualify for green card based on a family relationship if you are:
- a spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident,
- a son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident,
- a parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years of age, or
- a brother or sister of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years of age.
If you are a spouse, son, or daughter of a person who is eligible to apply for green card status, then you also may be eligible to apply.
In most cases, U.S. immigration officials recognize any marriage that was lawfully conducted in the place where the marriage took place, including same-sex marriages.