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Types of Green Cards in the United States

By
Lia Kopin-Green
/
February 19, 2024
Last reviewed by
Joanna Smykowski
/
February 19, 2024

The term “green card” symbolizes new life and opportunities in the United States. From family ties to employment prospects and humanitarian considerations, there are many different types of permanent resident visa in the U.S. In this informative legal guide, we will explore some of the most common types of green cards, allowing you to determine the most suitable option for your needs and circumstances. 

Family-Sponsored Green Cards

Family-Sponsored Green Cards, also known as Family-Based Green cards, allow foreign immigrants to join close relatives in the United States. Spouses, children, parents or siblings are considered close relatives, while grandparents and cousins generally do not qualify. Family-sponsored green cards are one of the most common types of green cards, counting for about two-thirds of the 1 million green cards issued annually in the U.S. 

There are two main categories of family sponsored green cards: immediate relatives and family preference categories. Immediate relatives are:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children (under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens 
  • Parents of U.S. citizens

Family preference categories are intended for: 

  • F1: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years or older) of U.S. citizens 
  • F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21)
  • F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years and older)
  • F3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F4: Brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens 

Employment-Based Green Cards

Employment-Based Green Cards, also known as EB Green Cards or EB visas, are immigrant visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States.  There are five main categories of employment-based green cards stemming from the job requirements and qualifications of the employee. In general, these visas are granted to individuals who have received a specific job offer from a U.S. employer or who possess a certain set of skills, abilities, or education that are in high demand in the current U.S. job market. Additionally, there is a certain type of employment-based green card reserved for individuals who have invested capital in a U.S. business that creates new jobs for workers. There are annual quotas for EB green cards, which means that there may be waiting periods for certain preference categories with high demand.

Diversity Lottery Green Card

Diversity Lottery Green Cards are a type of visa that allows individuals from countries with low immigration rates to apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States. About 50,000 diversity lottery green cards are awarded each year by the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the DV Program. The full list of eligible countries usually changes from year to year. It can be found on the U.S. Department of State website categorized six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and the Southern Americas (including South America, Central America and the Caribbean nations). It should be noted that even if you are randomly selected in the green card lottery, this does not necessarily mean that you are automatically granted a visa. It simply means that you are eligible to apply, and will be accepted based on certain requirements and eligibility conditions. 

Refugee and Asylee Status Green Cards

Individuals who have been granted refugee or asylee status in the United States may be eligible to apply for a green card after one year of residence in the country. Refugee status is typically granted to individuals who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to persecution or imminent fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Those who apply for the visa abroad will enter the U.S. as refugees. Refugees must undergo a thorough screening process before being admitted to the country. Once admitted, refugees are provided with assistance to help them resettle in the United States. Those who apply while residing in the U.S. are considered asylees, who must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country to qualify for asylum.

Longtime Resident Green Cards

Longtime Resident Green Cards are a special category of visas available to individuals who have resided continuously in the United States since before a specific date and who have maintained good moral character during that time. In order to qualify, the individual must prove with travel records that he or she entered the U.S. before January 1, 1972 and has not left since arriving. “Good moral character” is defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as behavior that aligns with the standard of average citizens. In other words, they did not commit certain crimes (such fraud, murder, and illegal gambling), did not lie to a USCIS offering during their green card interview, and did not receive 2 or more DUI convictions.

Bottom Line

In addition to the above categories, there are other types of green cards available known as permanent resident cards for “special immigrants.'' This includes green cards for Cuban or American Indians born in Canada, religious workers, specific workers from international organizations and media professionals. 

If you are interested in applying for a U.S. green card but are not sure which type best suits your circumstances, it is best to work with a professional immigration attorney. Schedule a consultation today with Attorney At Law.

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