Employment Based Green Cards
The U.S. Immigration laws offer foreign nationals with an assortment of exciting opportunities to live and work in the United States, both on a temporary and permanent basis. As legal professionals in the field of immigration, it is our job to analyze all relevant facts of each case to be able to determine whether and how a client can fit within the complicated immigration scheme. It is also our job to consider the “big picture” of each case to determine the best route to the client’s most desired immigration goal.
The Two Sides of U.S. Immigration
U.S. Immigration law is broken up into two main groupings – nonimmigrants and immigrants. No matter the nation of origin, the large majority of non-citizens living legally in the United States fall into one of those two groupings. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of those non-immigrants were between the ages 25 and 45.
A non-immigrant is an individual who has been authorized to stay in the United States for a temporary period of time. The individual must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the non-immigrant classification sought. But for two exceptions, non-immigrants must prove that they have intent to return to their home country after their authorized stay has ended. The key characteristic of a non-immigrant is the notion of temporariness.
Non-immigrants are identified by their “alphabet soup” nomenclature (i.e. B, E, L, H-1B, etc.), and they are restricted as to what they can and must do in the United States. Non-immigrants may extend their stay in the U.S., change to another non-immigrant status, and/or file for immigrant visa status. Non-immigrant status is generally the preferred short-term option for an individual coming to visit or work in the United States because of the speed in which is can be obtained.
An immigrant is an individual who has been authorized to live permanently in the United States. Immigrants are also known as lawful permanent residents (LPR) or green card holders, and they are legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. Green card holders have no restrictions on where they work or live in the United States. They may be issued immigrant visas by the Department of State overseas or adjusted to permanent resident status by the Citizenship and Immigration Service within the United States. Immigrant status is a long-term option for individuals because in many cases it can 1-3 years to obtain.
There are generally two ways to qualify for green card status – Family or Employment. LPR’s who obtained a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen are eligible to apply for citizenship after three years. All other LPR’s are eligible to apply for citizenship after five years. LPR’s, unlike U.S. citizens, do not have the right to vote in the United States, and are still subject to deportation.