A Green Card is an authorization or proof of your lawful status in the US and allows you to work and receive state and federal benefits though you are not allowed to vote or exercise any other rights reserved for those with American citizenship.
There are a number of ways that you can obtain a Green Card though you must first apply for permanent residency:
- Relative of a US Citizen
This includes a parent, spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21. Others given less preference in this category are unmarried adults and sons and daughters of US citizens or permanent residents over the age of 21. Brothers and sisters of adult citizens, their spouses and minor children are given the lowest preference in this category.
- Job or Employment Based
There is an order of preference based on whether you are a skilled worker or have some extraordinary ability such as a researcher, scientist, professor or multinational executive and are given an employment offer. There are also preferences for professionals with advanced degrees. Your employer must first obtain a labor certification and file a Form I-140 Form or Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.
- Refugee or Asylum Status
If admitted to the US as a refugee or given asylum status, you can apply for a Green Card after one year. Refugees are required to apply one year after being given refugee status.
- Other Status
There are special immigrant programs if you are an Amerasian child of a US citizen, a Native American born in Canada, religious worker, armed forces member, Afghan or Iraqi who assisted the US Army or government, Haitian refugee, broadcaster, victim of criminal activity or of trafficking, Panama Canal worker, or international organization worker. These Green Cards may be obtained by first filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
Investors and entrepreneurs who are investing in certain enterprises that can create or will create new jobs may apply to receive Green Cards as well.