Getting A Green Card – U.S. Immigration Laws


Travel And Immigration Ban On U.S. Green Card Holders By Executive Order – 2017 

On January 27, 2017, under the pretense of stemming terrorism within the U.S., President Trump, by Executive Order, banned entry into the U.S. of travelers from the following Muslim dominated nations : Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Presidents Executive Order was then stayed by a Federal District Court and a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) relating to the travel ban issued. The TRO had the effect of lifting the Travel Ban temporarily. This was then followed by a February 4th 2017 Federal Appellate Court emergency ruling affirming the Districts Court’s Constitutional right to issue a TRO and agreed to hear the matter which will then, depending on the ruling, make its way on to the Supreme Court for a final adjudication.

Getting A Green Card – U.S. Immigration Laws And Requirements

Obtaining a green card, also referred to as a permanent visa, means that the holder of the card is legally qualified to live and work in the United States indefinitely. Obtaining a green card may still the fastest path towards citizenship.

Under U.S immigration law, there are four major gateways leading to obtaining a green card; through marriage and family, employment, investment, and through the immigration lottery process. Lets take a look at each.

Green Card Through Marriage – Immediate Family Waivers

For purposes of obtaining a green card, the current spouse of a U.S. citizen can legally qualify as an immediate family member and therefore legally qualify under the current marriage and family immigration program. However, the qualification process does not lead to automatic approval nor is the immigration process easy to understand without the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.

Notwithstanding, the process has been improving in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security there are as many as 25,000 immigrants that apply for family unity waivers each year. From these, the vast majority of waivers, including 88 percent in 2012 and 84 percent in 2011 are approved for processing. So far there is no indication that the 2016 refugee crisis in Syria and neighboring nations will have an impact on the number of waivers permitted.

Should the foreign national not yet be in this country or has not yet legally consummated the marriage at the time the petition was presented to immigration services, then it is still possible to obtain what is known as a fiancé visa, also known as a K-1 petition. This allows the foreign spouse to enter the United States for the specific purposes of marrying the U.S. citizen.

Green Card Through U.S. Employment

Another way a foreign national may qualify for a green card is by obtaining full time employment with an American based company. There are approximately 140,000 employment visas issued annually. In order to qualify for one, an application and labor certification must be presented for approval. The process is not automatic.

Our immigration laws make it illegal for a business to hire a foreign national without first receiving approval from the United States Department of Labor. Under federal law, employers must first attempt to fill the job position with an American citizen before offering the job to a foreign national.

The foreign employee,  together with the American based employer, must establish that there is a legitimate and important need to hire a foreign national. Usually it must be shown that the foreign applicant offers some exceptional skill or talent that makes the applicant a unique and compelling fit for the U.S. business. The sponsoring employer usually must show that it was unable to find an American employee with like skills, qualifications and experience before being allowed to hire a foreign national.

The immigration form that is used for this purpose is I-I40, also known as the Alien Petition for Alien Worker form. If the employment petition is granted, the incoming spouse and all of his or her unmarried children under the age of 21 generally qualify for the right to apply for citizenship as well. The goal of course is to keep new families together – whether foreign or national born.

Green Card Through The Lottery System

Every twelve months the federal government’s lottery program receives millions of applications from foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States. Of these, only about 50,000 lottery winners are selected for admission to the United States.

Eligibility criteria for admission through the lottery system are mostly determined by the applicant’s place of national origin. The immigration policy attempts to level the playing field among foreign nationals coming from countries that have had historically low immigration rates into the United States.  The goal is to foster ethnic diversity and fairness in our immigration practices.

The green card lottery system grants the selected applicant a green card but there are additional immigration forms and documents that must be properly submitted and approved before a green card can be issued. The applicant must also be required to meet the minimum requirements concerning education and employment status.

Regarding education, immigration applicants from countries with low rates of immigration have been randomly selected for permanent residency visas regardless of their education level or areas of expertise. This has been changing. In January 2013, the US House of Representatives green-lighted a immigration bill that would replace the green card lottery with a program that awards permanent residency visas to foreign graduates of US master’s and doctoral programs in science, technology, engineering and math.

Green Card Through Investing In The United States

Every year, over 15,000 green cards are issued to foreign investors who make substantial investments in American businesses. The purpose of the investment program is to spur economic growth in certain industries and select regions of the United States through job creation, capital expenditures and commercial investment.

The foreign investor must establish that his or her investment qualifies under current immigration laws.  This usually means that the investment must be made in a business that is located within an approved region of the country and that the investment will create at least ten jobs in the process. If you are such an investor, it is strongly advised that you consider retaining an experienced immigration attorney to prepare your application and to present your case to immigration services.

Excessive Travel Abroad  – Risks To Returning Legal Residents

Holders of Green Card can risk the loss their privileges should they engage in excessive travel abroad. A returning legal resident returning from an absence of less than a year and presents his Green Card at the point of entry is not assured that he will be readmitted back into the United States. The holder must recognize that while a Green Card satisfies the requirement of presenting a valid entry document at U.S. boarder, its presentation is not evidence that he is “returning from a temporary visit abroad.” The operative term here is temporary. For this reason, it is possible that a returning resident might be denied entry back into the U.S. if deemed to have abandoned his legal residence status.

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