The Green Card, or United States Permanent Resident Card, is an identification card for aliens attesting to their permanent resident status. A green card is proof that its holder is a lawful permanent resident and is granted immigration benefits, which include permission to live and work in the United States. Green cards are issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
In order to obtain a green card, a three step process is necessary that can take years to complete, depending on the immigrant category and country of birth. The first step is an immigrant petition which is usually approved through a qualifying relative or employer. The three main groups of petitions are immediate relative immigrants, family-based immigrants and employer based immigrants.
The next step is determined by visa availability, according to quotas set by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Finally, when a visa becomes available, the applicant must apply with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to adjust their status to permanent resident. The cost for a visa, effective August 18, 2007, is $930.00 plus an $80.00 biometrics fee. The initial filing for a visa, however, is free.
In addition to this method of obtaining a green card, there is also a green card lottery every year. About 50,000 green cards are made available in a lottery system for people coming to the United States from countries with low immigration rates. The only qualification for this system is country of birth, not citizenship. Eligible territories change year to year. As long as a country has not sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the previous five years, its citizens remain eligible for the lottery.
Ineligible countries for the 2009 green card lottery include Brazil, Canada, China (mainland only), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland), and Vietnam. Currently, Europe and Africa win about 80% of the lottery visas. A complication of the green card lottery is that more winners are selected than visas are available. This is done because not everyone awarded a visa is able to pursue it, as eligibility restrictions exist. Requirements include a high school diploma and two years of work experience in an industry requiring two years of training. Another problem of the diversity lottery is green card scams, where agents take money from applicants under the claim that they can increase their chances of winning a visa.
If you are interested in learning more, information about green cards can help.