The Green Card Application Procedure: Difficult but not Impossible

Once you have obtained a green card, you no longer have to worry about the terms of your legal stay in the United States: at the end of the 10 years for which the green card is issued, its validity can be renewed through a non-scheduled procedure. In addition, after 5 years from the date of issuance of the passport, the holder of the passport may apply for US citizenship.

In general, it can be said that the legal status of a holder of a Green Card is largely identical to that of a US citizen, except for the lack of such rights as the right to vote, to hold certain public offices, and so on. This explains the lack of a continuous list of applicants for the Green Card.

So, let’s find out who can get a green card in the United States? There is a list of categories of people who are eligible for a green card:

  • A male/female U.S. citizen/permanent resident of the United States;
  • Close relatives of a US citizen/permanent resident (children, fathers, brothers, sisters);
  • “Immigrant workers” (individuals who have received an offer of employment from a US employer, businessmen, investors according to an approved list);
  • Refugees and people who have been granted political asylum in the USA.

The procedure for obtaining a Green Card can be summarised in the following steps.

First Stage – Submission of an Immigrant Petition

The applicant (e.g., a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States who is a relative of the applicant, or a U.S. employer) (petitioner), apply to the United States Immigration Service (USCIS) Regional Center with a prescribed application, which should be accompanied by the documents listed on the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

The employer, for example, can initiate the process if he or she is interested in employing a specific employee who he or she is prepared to employ formally. In this case, it is a question of obtaining a work permit through a “job offer”.

Thus, there are priority categories of employees that are of interest to US employers. For example, individuals with extraordinary skills in science, arts, education, business or sports; distinguished academics or researchers, managers and executives of international companies, etc. For some of them it is necessary to obtain from the US Department of Labor (DOL) the appropriate Labor Certification document in advance. This certification must confirm that there are not enough qualified workers and that the United States wants to fill the position at a lower wage (than U.S. citizens are paid for such work); hiring foreign workers would not have a negative impact on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. In addition, the employer may be interested in individuals performing specialized work, a list of which is set forth in Section 101(a)(27) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Also, the US actively supports the process of capital investments in its economy. Therefore, the grants are available to investors and entrepreneurs who invest in companies that create new jobs in the USA.

Foreigners with extraordinary capabilities or certain persons who are of special interest to the state (National Interest Waiver (NIW)) have the right to submit a self-petition.

The primary condition for obtaining a green card is that you must have resided continuously in the United States for at least one year from the date of admission and must have been in residence at the time you submitted your petition. To apply for a residence permit, you have to submit a prescribed application form (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). A person who has been granted political asylum is subject to the same requirements, provided that the person has not been relocated to another state.

As of the date of the immigrant petition, the person who submitted the immigrant petition must be willing to sponsor the applicant (which is recorded on the application form) financially until he or she obtains citizenship or until ten years after the date of his or her arrival in the United States.

When it comes to immigrating a parent, the petitioner must be informed that his or her family income is at least 125% higher than the poverty level in the United States. This is done by submitting tax returns, bank statements, etc.

All required application forms as well as instructions on how to fill them in for each category of migrants can be found on the official USCIS website in the “FORMS” section.

The second step is for the USCIS to issue a decision to approve the immigrant petition

The USCIS reviews the immigrant petition filed by the petitioner, after which it informs the petitioner of its decision. If the petition is withdrawn, the USCIS decision shall specify the reasons for the withdrawal, as well as the procedure for its cancellation.

If the petition is approved and the visa applicant resides outside of the United States, USCIS will transfer all documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where they will be retained until the visa applicant’s turn comes and the visa is available to him or her.

There are some differences in the procedure for obtaining a residence permit at this stage. Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen (the other spouse, children under 21 years of age who are not overstaying their spouse; parents if the petitioner is not under 21 years of age) are always entitled to an unlimited number of visas. A close relative of a U.S. citizen may apply for registration of immigrant status at the same time as the immigrant petition to USCIS, provided that he or she is legally present on U.S. territory.

Other relatives of a US citizen/permanent resident are divided into ‘Priority Categories’ (or ‘Preference Categories’), each of which is subject to a quota of citizenship cards each year.

Because there are more applicants for immigrant visas than visas granted on a case-by-case basis under each category of benefit, a waiting list is drawn up. In allocating the visas, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) establishes a “Priority Date” for each visa applicant, which serves to determine the applicant’s position in the visa application list. When the Priority Date arrives, the applicant is entitled to apply for an immigrant visa.

Third stage – opening of the case and preparation for the visa interview for an immigrant visa

Once the petition is approved, the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy opens a file for each visa applicant and conducts administrative processing of the immigrant visa application. This process usually takes 30 days after the visa application has been approved. Following this, the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy will send the applicant an information packet containing the documents that must be collected prior to the interview at the Embassy. The information package can be found on the Embassy’s website.

When the applicant has collected all the necessary documents, he or she will notify the Consular Section by telephone to the call centre, after which a consultation will be arranged.

Fourth stage – a consultation to determine whether the applicant can apply for an immigrant visa

All persons applying for immigrant visas are required to present themselves to the Consular Section for a visa interview. During the interview, the visa holder swears an oath to the consular officer.

If the interview is positive, the applicant will receive an immigrant package, which cannot be opened before arrival in the USA and will have to be handed over to a USCIS officer at the US border crossing point.

Under Section 203 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the applicant must apply for a visa at the Consular Section within one year of receiving the request for a visa.

As a visa is not guaranteed, you should not quit your job, sell your possessions or prepare to travel until the visa has been issued.

Stage 3 – Travel to the United States

The Customs and Border Protection officer and the USCIS staff at the border crossing point will verify the presence of all required documents and whether they have been completed correctly.

After completing all the necessary checks, the person acquires the status of a permanent resident of the USA, which entitles him or her to live and work in the country. The green card is valid for 30 days from the date of entry into the United States.

Additional options for obtaining a grin card

If you do not have parents in the USA or are not able to work, you can try to win a green card from the lottery.

The issuance of permanent resident visas is provided under the official Diversity Immigrant Visa (“DV”) programme administered by the U.S. Department of State pursuant to Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The “DV” programme is designed to grant permanent resident status to persons who meet simple but strict criteria. The visas are divided between six geographical regions, with most of them located in regions with a lower level of immigration (the former USSR and European countries). Persons from those countries from which more than 50 thousand immigrants have come to the United States in the last 5 years will not be eligible for a visa. Within each region, no country can receive more than 7% of the total number of “DV” visas issued in one year. This rule is in place to regulate an even flow of migrants from different regions of the world.

To participate in the DV, you must complete an online application on the US Department of State’s official website. On your computer screen, you will see a page with your name and an unique confirmation number. Please disconnect this page and keep the confirmation number.

At the time of application, applicants must be a native of a country that is on the list of those taking part in the lottery in the current year, and must also have a full secondary school education or two years’ experience in a profession requiring at least two years of training or experience to perform the activity.

Lottery winners are determined by a computerised programme. The person who is selected by the computer is required to provide proof of ownership of certain assets as well as additional guarantees of their ability to pay – proof of support from a relative or friend who lives in the United States, a job offer from a U.S. employer, etc. In this way, the US government additionally “insures” itself against potential retainers.

The status of the online application must be checked on the website. To do so, simply click on “Entry Status Check” and enter your unique registration confirmation number and personal data. The Entry Status Check is the only legal way to find out about the lottery results.

It should be noted that the lottery does not have an official centre or representative office; registration to the lottery is free of charge and there is no charge for downloading or filling in the lottery forms; the department will not notify the winner by phone or by e-mail. Therefore, all payments made by lottery participants go exclusively into the hands of the companies that help them complete the required forms and applications, without affecting the final result.