Easiest Ways to Get a Green Card
When referring to the easiest ways to get a green card, most people really mean the “fastest” way. Nowadays, the U.S. immigration process is like any government division, slow and frustrating. It’s important to know that the green card process can take anywhere from months to up to ten years or more. So when wondering what the fastest or easiest ways to get a green card are, be aware that the speed is a very relative thing.
But then you’re still wondering, “Who gets their green cards quickly and how can I?”
The answer to that would be that it depends upon what immigrant category you fit into. For instance, immediate family members of current U.S. citizens have access to an unlimited number of visas, and as a result, get theirs the soonest. After that, depending upon what category you fit into, and your country of birth, the wait may be relatively short or long.
Easiest Ways to Get a Green Card – The Visa Bulletin
The Visa Bulletin is a monthly report released by the United States Department of State. In it, it specifies not only the criteria for the various visa categories but the sub-categories as well. It also gives the most up-to-date information on the availability of visa immigrant numbers. It would be a good thing to be familiar with the Visa Bulletin as it can save you a lot of research time and headaches as you go through the green card application process.
If you’re wondering what some of the easiest ways to get a green card is, the Visa Bulletin would be a good place to start.
Family-Based Green Card
When it comes to family-based green cards, the fastest way to get a green card is without a doubt by being what is defined by being what the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services calls an “immediate family member.” For those that fit under this category, there is no limit on the number of visas granted.
For other family members looking to obtain green cards, there are four categories, First, Second, Third, and Fourth Preference immigrants, which are defined in the Visa Bulletin.
After each of these category descriptions, there is a table with a series of cut-off dates, known as “priority dates,” next to various categories. These dates refer to what applications the USCIS is accepting and reviewing currently. This means that if your family member petitioned for your immigrant visa (Form I-130) before the cut-off date, you can apply for your green card (Form I-485) with USCIS. Your priority date will be explicitly listed on the I-130 approval notice. Since these dates obviously change, it is important to keep an eye on the Visa Bulletin to get a good idea of when you can apply for the final stage of your green card application.
What may surprise you, though, is how often and by how much the wait times may change in your visa category. The priority dates can change dramatically depending upon any number of factors, like how many people actually apply in your category from your country of birth, or how fast the State Department can process applications. One of the largest factors determining the cut-off dates for categories is the demand within that category. For instance, nationals born in China and Mexico have very long wait times compared to nationals born in other countries, purely based on the high demand for visas by nationals born in those two countries.
Green Card Lottery
The term “green card lottery” is played fast and loose in discussing the easiest ways to get a green card, and for good reason. Outside of immediate family members, the diversity lottery is definitely at the top of the easiest ways to get a green card. Here’s the catch, and it’s the word “diversity”: The U.S. government makes 55,000 visas up for grabs for those that are from countries with low numbers of green card applications. Even if you do fit the qualification the chances of getting a visa are still heavily dependent upon luck due to the sheer number of applicants.
Since the diversity visa is one of the easiest ways to get a visa, many immigrants will be having the same idea as you to take advantage of it. Don’t let that discourage you, though. If you are able to apply, it doesn’t hurt or require too much additional effort to put your name (or rather, number) in the game.
Work-Based Green Card
If you’ve gathered anything by now, it should be that one of the easiest ways to get a green card is largely dependent upon what category of U.S. immigrant you fit under. The same holds true for those seeking work-based green cards.
As with the family-based visas, the Visa Bulletin will specify all of the subcategories for work-based green card applications, and the subsequent priority dates for each. One good thing about work-based visa cards is that compared to family-based cards, they generally have more favorable cut-off dates and wait times, with the exception of those born in India or China. However, the downside is that these visas generally require high levels of work from the sponsoring employer and yourself. Additionally, in many categories, the employer must define a specific need to hire and sponsor you instead of someone from the domestic work force, which can make things tricky.
Still, if you don’t fit any of the family-based categories and don’t meet the requirements to take part in the lottery, this is a perfectly viable option for many immigrants.
The first preference category is for what is called, “priority workers.” On the plus side, there is normally no wait for those in this category. Yet to fit into this category, you must be considered outstanding in your field of work (like, Nobel Prize or multi-national CEO type of outstanding). The Visa Bulletin outlines these qualifications, and though they are hard to fit, if you do, you have just found one of the easiest ways to get a green card in the worker-based visa category. A somewhat easier path for the first preference category is to be a multinational manager or executive for a specific company, meaning that you were a manager or executive for a company at one of their global offices, and transferred to their U.S. office in a similar role.
For those that are not multi-national managers, pioneers in their fields of work, or famous artists, there are other work-based green card categories for you.
The second and third categories apply to those applicants who are offered a job in the U.S. and whose employment opportunity requires at least a bachelor’s degree. The good news is that there has historically been little to no wait for those that fall under this category unless you are born in India or China. The bad news is that this also requires the employer sponsoring the visa to perform a “labor market test” to be sure that no one in the current U.S. market is able to take that job and that you and your skills are necessary.
That’s not what would normally be called “easy,” but if you are in this category of worker, the lack of a wait time may be tempting.
The fourth category is so incredibly specific that it’s no wonder that it has little to no wait times. It is reserved for “special immigrants”, a vague term referring to specific kinds of religious workers and children seeking to join foster families in the U.S. But, hey, if for whatever reason you fit under this category, enjoy the little wait. It’s certainly one of the quickest ways to get a green card.
The fifth preference category is known as the “job creation visa”. It is called as such because, in order to be eligible for it, you must invest between $500,000 and $1 million in a U.S. venture that can employ at least ten U.S. permanent residents or citizens full-time. The good news is that there is not much wait in this category excepting those born in China, but that’s only because of the very low number of people actually eligible under this category.
The easiest ways to get a green card are certainly not few, but it depends entirely upon what group you fall under in the U.S. immigration system. There are many ways to obtain a permanent resident card quickly, but not all of those ways are very easy or possible for most people.
The best thing you can do as a green card applicant is stay informed on the current cut-off dates and wait times as listed in the Visa Bulletin and know what immigrant category you fall under. It may also be worth understanding how green card renewals work as well.
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The newsletters and articles found in this blog are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions.