How to Get a Green Card in Charlotte, North Carolina

What If Securing Your American Dream Was Just a Consultation Away?

Getting a U.S. green card can be a complex journey, with each step and document being crucial. With many forms, procedures, and timelines, understanding how to get a green card can be anything but simple.

A green card or Permanent Resident Card is more than just a plastic card. It’s a ticket to a new life. It gives someone the legal right to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, opening up countless opportunities. For many people, it’s about pursuing the American Dream. 

That can include a career, education, safety, or the joy of reuniting with family. However, obtaining this valuable card can be challenging. Obstacles, such as procedural errors and long waiting times, can dash those hopes.

Quick Summary:

  • A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, enables non-citizens the right to live and work permanently in the U.S.
  • Eligibility for a Green Card is determined by specific categories. Those are family relationships with U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, employment, refugee or asylee status, and the diversity lottery.
  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor certain family members for green cards, with eligibility extending to immediate relatives like spouses and unmarried children under 21 to other family members, including married children and siblings.
  • Employment-based green cards are available through five preference categories, ranging from individuals with extraordinary abilities, and advanced degree professionals, to investors in new U.S. enterprises.
  • Special immigrant and humanitarian programs include a wide range of categories for special immigrants, refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking and criminal activities, and participants in the diversity immigrant visa program.
  • The process of applying for a green card involves several steps. 
    • Check if you meet the requirements first. 
    • Then, you have to submit the necessary documents and wait for approval. 
    • Once approved, you can change your status in the U.S. or go through consular processing in another country. 
    • Biometrics and interviews are also steps you need to go through.

What is a Green Card?

According to federal immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a green card holder, or lawful permanent resident, is a non-citizen authorized to live and work in the United States permanently.

As a foundational element of U.S. immigration policy, the green card is proof that its holder has been officially granted immigration benefits. That includes the ability to reside and take employment in the U.S. 

The process of obtaining a green card differs depending on the individual’s situation, including their country of origin, reason for immigration, and whether they are applying from within or outside the United States.

Green Card Eligibility Requirements

Many aspire to get a Green Card to establish permanent residency in the United States. However, some categories established by immigration laws must be met to qualify for one. Familiarizing oneself with these categories can help prospective applicants to identify the most suitable path for their circumstances.

Family-Based Green Card

Family-based immigration is a cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy. It allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to bring certain family members to the United States.

  1. Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens
    1. Spouses: Legally married partners of U.S. citizens are eligible for a green card. Proof of a bona fide marriage is required. Those include documents like marriage certificates and joint financial statements.
    2. Unmarried Children Under 21: Biological, adopted, or step-children of U.S. citizens under 21 years old and unmarried. Evidence of the relationship and the child’s age is necessary.
    3. Parents: U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents for green cards once the citizen is 21 years or older. The sponsoring citizen must provide proof of their relationship to the parent and evidence of their U.S. citizenship.
  2. Other Family Members
    1. Unmarried Sons and Daughters Over 21: This category includes the adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. While they are eligible for green cards, there is typically a longer waiting period due to annual visa limits.
    2. Married Children of Any Age: U.S. citizens can sponsor their married children. However, like unmarried adult children, this category faces longer wait times due to visa caps.
    3. Siblings: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens are eligible for sponsorship, provided the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old. This category also experiences significant wait times because of the limited number of visas available annually.

For immediate relatives and other family members, the U.S. citizen sponsor must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The sponsor must also prove they can support the relative at 125% above the mandatory poverty line by filing an Affidavit of Support.

While immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have visas immediately available to them, other family members may need to wait for a visa to become available. The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin provides monthly updates on visa availability.

Employment-Based Green Card

The employment-based green card process allows U.S. employers to sponsor foreign nationals for permanent residence based on job skills and qualifications. Here’s a closer look at each preference category:

  1. First Preference (EB-1)
    • Extraordinary Ability: Individuals who have risen to the very top of their field in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants must prove their extraordinary ability through sustained national or international acclaim and extensive documentation.
    • Outstanding Professors and Researchers: Recognized internationally for their outstanding achievements in a particular academic field. They must have at least three years of experience in teaching or research in that academic area.
    • Multinational Managers or Executives: Must have been employed outside the U.S. in the three years preceding the petition for at least one year by a firm or corporation. They must also seek to enter the U.S. to continue service to that firm or organization in a managerial or executive capacity.
  2. Second Preference (EB-2)
    • Advanced Degree Professionals: Applicants must have a job offer from a U.S. employer for a position requiring an advanced degree (beyond a bachelor’s) or its equivalent in experience.
    • Exceptional Ability: Individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business significantly benefiting the U.S. economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare.
  3. Third Preference (EB-3)
    • Skilled Workers: Positions needing a minimum of two years of training or experience.
    • Professionals: Jobs that need at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent and a professional member.
    • Other Workers: Positions that need less than two years of training or experience.
  4. Fourth Preference (EB-4)

Covers a diverse group known as “special immigrants,” which includes: 

    • Certain religious workers 
    • Employees of U.S. foreign service posts 
    • Retired employees of international organizations 
    • Alien minors who are wards of courts in the United States 
    • Other specific categories defined by immigration law
  1. Fifth Preference (EB-5)
    • Investor Visa: Aimed at individuals who invest $1 million in a new commercial enterprise ($500,000 in a targeted employment area). The enterprise aims to create full-time positions for at least ten qualifying employees.

For all these categories, the process typically involves the employer filing a petition on behalf of the applicant with USCIS. However, the EB-5 category allows the investor to file a petition themselves. Each category has its specific requirements and documentation needs. 

The EB-1 category tends to have quicker processing times due to not always requiring a labor certification. Meanwhile, the EB-5 category involves extensive documentation about investment and job creation.

Special Immigrant Categories

That includes a broad range of categories such as, but not limited to, Afghan and Iraqi translators for the U.S. government, international broadcasters, religious workers, and employees of international organizations.

Humanitarian Programs

The U.S. offers protection and a path to permanent residency through various humanitarian programs for people facing persecution, danger, or distress. These programs uphold international commitments to human rights and provide relief to those in urgent need. Below are crucial categories under humanitarian provisions:

  1. Refugees and Asylees: Individuals unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
  2. Other Categories: Include victims of human trafficking (T nonimmigrant status), victims of criminal activities (U nonimmigrant status), and other categories that offer protection under U.S. laws.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

Also known as the “Green Card Lottery,” this program makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually. This program is drawn from random selection among all entries from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S.

Each of these pathways has different requirements and procedures. Applicants must meet specific eligibility criteria, like having a sponsoring family member or employer, meeting particular qualifications, and passing background checks and medical exams. 

It is also critical for applicants to maintain valid immigration status if they are already in the U.S. They should follow the correct application process for their situation, whether it is adjusting their status in the U.S. or applying through consular processing from abroad.

How to Apply for a Green Card in the United States

Knowing how to get a green card in the United States is crucial for those aiming for permanent residency. This process involves many clearly defined steps, requiring close attention to procedural details and compliance with USCIS regulations. Here is a step-by-step guide to navigate through the application process effectively:

  1. Determine Your Eligibility Category: The first step to getting a green card involves identifying the category under which you are eligible to apply. That can be family-based, employment-based, refugee or asylee status, or the diversity lottery.
  2. File the Petition:
  3. Wait for Petition Approval: Once the petition is submitted, the waiting period for USCIS to process and approve it begins. Processing times can vary significantly based on your application category, country of origin, and specific circumstances.
  4. File Your Green Card Application:
    • Adjustment of Status (If You’re Already in the U.S.): File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS. This form can be filed concurrently with the petition in some categories, facilitating a smoother process of getting a green card.
    • Consular Processing (If You’re Outside the U.S.): After your petition is approved and a visa becomes available, your case will move to the National Visa Center (NVC) for document collection. Then, it will be forwarded to the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country for processing.
  5. Attend Biometrics Appointment: Applicants within the U.S. must attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature, further advancing their green card application process.
  6. Complete an Interview: The interview, conducted either at a USCIS office (for adjustment of status) or at a U.S. consulate or embassy (for consular processing), is a critical step. You will answer questions about your application and background.
  7. Wait for a Decision: Following your interview, USCIS or the consular office will review your application and make a decision. Approval means you will soon receive your green card.
  8. Receive Your Green Card: Completing the application process allows you to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

Why Do I Need a North Carolina Attorney for a Green Card Application?

Navigating the green card application process in the United States can be complex and often overwhelming. While it’s technically possible to go through the application process on your own, several compelling reasons highlight the value of having an immigration attorney by your side:

  • Understanding Local and Federal Laws: Immigration laws are federal, but local practices and procedures vary. A North Carolina attorney familiar with both can provide guidance tailored to your situation, ensuring compliance and potentially speeding up the process.
  • Handling Complex Cases: If your case involves any complexities, such as previous denials, legal issues, or complications with your immigration status, an attorney can offer expert advice and strategies to address these challenges effectively.
  • Avoiding Mistakes: The green card application process is detailed and requires accurate documentation. Mistakes can lead to delays or denials. An immigration attorney can help ensure your application is complete, accurate, and submitted correctly.
  • Personalized Strategy: Every immigration case is unique. An immigration attorney can develop a personalized strategy based on your circumstances, goals, and eligibility, maximizing your chances of success.
  • Peace of Mind: Perhaps most importantly, having an attorney handle your green card application can provide peace of mind. Knowing an experienced professional is navigating the legal complexities on your behalf can remove stress and allow you to focus on your future in the United States.

While it’s not mandatory to hire an immigration attorney for a green card application in North Carolina, the benefits of doing so are evident. An immigration attorney’s experience and skills can be invaluable in navigating the path to lawful permanent residency.

Call Our North Carolina Immigration Attorney Now!

Navigating how to get a green card can be complex. But our law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Law Office of Jack G. Lezman, PLLC, brings over 20 years of experience to guide clients through this intricate journey. We also offer various legal services, including debt relief, personal injury, and workers’ compensation. 

If you need assistance with green card applications or facing other legal challenges, contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation. Taking this step ensures you receive personalized and dedicated support tailored to your unique situation, providing the professional guidance you deserve.

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