Things to Know About Applying and Filing for a Green Card
Filing for a Green Card: What is it?
Immigrants to the United States who are seeking to obtain permanent residence need to apply for what is known as a green card. A green card is a form of identification that validates an immigrant’s permanent residency status in the United States. One should be aware, though, that after filing for a green card, there is a wait time that varies depending upon a number of factors including a limit on the number of visas granted by the United States government each year. You can apply for a green card in several ways including through familial relations or through your employer petitioning for you.
In general, regardless of how you apply for a green card, you should be aware of the same essential information that applying for a green card involves.
Hoping to Have an Employer Petition For You?
Getting an employer to file a petition for a green card can be tricky. Per U.S. law, the employer is required to conduct a recruitment process and must fail to find a U.S. worker is both able and willing to take the job. If no U.S. worker is qualified, then the employer must submit a labor certification request (Form ETA 9089) to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Filing the Initial Petition
In order to start the process of getting you a visa, your relative or employer must file a visa petition form for you. For employers, they must file Form I-140, while relatives and family members must file with Form I-130 (or I-129F if they are your fiancé). Of course, these are not the only ways to apply for a green card, and you can certainly do it on your own as well if, for example, you are seeking asylum status in the United States.
Once the first petition is submitted, the wait for an answer can be expected to take somewhere between several weeks and several months depending upon how many petitions the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has to sort through at any given time. Fortunately, if you are a refugee or asylum-seeker, the interview where you may be approved can sometimes be within weeks of turning in your application.
Unfortunately, if you’re in a visa category that is subject to limits on the number of visas distributed, you will have to wait until your date comes up on the waiting list. Your “Priority Date” is determined by when your visa petition was received by the USCIS, or when your labor certification was received by the Department of Labor for employment-sponsored categories. Depending upon your category and country of birth, this process can take years, from around five years for spouses and unmarried children, and up to twenty for siblings of U.S. citizens. A good source to check regarding wait times is the State Department’s Visa Bulletin for the current list of Priority Dates.
Filing for a Green Card
Finally, after everything else, the time has arrived for you to apply for a green card. You can submit your application either through the USCIS or the U.S. consulate in your home country. After you apply, it may take several weeks or months for them to contact you for an interview. Your consulate may be able to tell what the wait times for that are like at a given time.
At your interview, expect your application to be approved or denied, but answers are not always given then and may take a few days depending upon the status of your background check or if your interviewer would like you to supply any additional information.