There’s a bit of a panic around US green cards at the moment. If the proposal to slash the number of green cards offered each year in half comes to fruition, it’ll make them even more difficult to obtain.
Here’s a little background on the proposal by two Republican senators to implement a skills-based immigration scheme. It’s seen as a long shot in some circles, with Republicans and Democrats alike voicing their doubts.
As it is now, the proposal would:
- Dramatically reduce “family” migration to those spouses and minor children
- Eliminate the international diversity visa lottery (one of the easiest ways of applying for a green card)
- Limit the amount of refugees the US accepts annually
- Introduce a grading system for prospective immigrants based on their salary, university degrees, English language skills, ability to afford health care and skills required by the economy at the time.
If you’re so inclined, you can read the entire Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act to find out what’s in it. But in the meantime, let’s have a general chat about what a green card is, whether you qualify as it stands currently and what you need to do to apply.
WHY ARE GREEN CARDS SO POPULAR?
That’s an easy one to start with. Green cards are your ticket to living and working in the US permanently. Unless you’re in the UK, in which case you want to know about international insurance documents for motorists and you’re not going to get what you’re looking for here.
When your US green card is granted, you get your own little plastic ID card (like a driver’s license) that is proof that you are a lawful US permanent resident.
HOW GREEN CARDS AFFECT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
Once you’re granted a green card, you’ll need to carry that ID (mentioned above) with you everywhere so that you’re able to prove your residency rights if necessary.
Just because you have a green card, doesn’t mean it can’t be revoked, especially if you commit a crime. Some serious crimes will result your green card being striped from you. If you move overseas with the intention of staying away permanently or do not return to the US within two years of obtaining a re-entry permit, your green card will also be void.
Of course if you live in the US, you’ll need to file taxes. Failure to do so will lead to loss of a green card.
Now onto the good stuff!
You can vote in local and state elections that don’t require you to be a citizen, but if you want to have your say in federal elections you’ll need to go the whole hog and pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the republic for which it stands…
Travel with your green card is supposedly easy, and they don’t expire, although you’ll need a new ID card after a decade. Your work options are far more open: you can more easily start a business and find work without having to worry about the visa rigmarole.
You can sponsor a spouse or a child under 21 to become permanent US residents and you’ll pay less in university and college fees and be eligible for financial aid.
HOW TO APPLY
There are still a few different ways that you may qualify and apply for green cards, so be sure to choose the one that’s right for you!
International Diversity Lottery
I’m starting here because it’s on the chopping block at the moment – regardless of how unlikely it is to be removed.
It’s the most popular way to apply for green cards and probably one of the only one that you know a lot about. The lottery is drawn randomly from applicants both from inside the US and overseas.
The application period is just one month (usually in October) and those hoping to get green cards need to be from qualifying countries and have a high school equivalent education or work experience. You can check whether you qualify here.
There are stringent guidelines for applying, which includes submitting a photograph of yourself from the past two years. If you’re lucky enough to be pulled from that lottery, an immigrant visa interview will follow and you’ll have to pay a fee.
This video, from Claritza Jimenez of The Washington Post, explains the lottery in a nutshell.
Green Cards Through Family
There are parts of this green card category that are also under threat, specifically that which allows US citizens to sponsor family members who aren’t classified as “immediate”.
Here’s how it stands at the moment. You can apply under the “family” umbrella if you have:
- A US citizen for a spouse, an unmarried child under 21, or parents.
- A US citizen for a child (over 21), married children or siblings (who are over 21).
- A family member holds a green card
- Or if you qualify in a special category (such as a child born to a foreign diplomat in the US)
Green Cards Through Work
Find out if your new job (or current employer) will supply a Labor Certificate for you, which will allow you to apply for this category of green card. It’s the one for people with a permanent job in the US, which your employer will confirm.
This isn’t in your court as much as the other green card options, instead your employer will need to petition for you. If you’re not already in the US, you can use consular processing to get the ball rolling.
However, if you’re applying from the US you’ll have to follow that step up with sending in an I-485 as well, which will change your visa status to “permanent resident”.
Have you had experience with applying for a green card? Or maybe you’ve won the International Diversity Lottery before. We’d love to hear your tips or even your story in the comments!