For most US immigrants, acquiring a green card is a major step. The permanent residence card gives greater flexibility and reduces the fear of deportation. Each year, the US government awards a set number to applicants across the country.
While many new arrivals can get a green card, data from the Department of Homeland Security says that over half of the green cards issued go to those already in the country. The report reviews the years 2004 to 2015, finding that, in recent years, distribution of resident cards has been close to an even split between new arrivals and those who were already in the country but changed their status.
Who is eligible for a green card?
There are five main categories to apply for a green card, based on reason for seeking residency. According to the report, family ties are the most powerful connection, with employment, refugee status, and nation of origin also playing a role.
In applying for a green card, the Department of Homeland Security considers:
- Immediate relatives of US citizens
- Family-sponsored preferences
- Employment-based preferences
- Refugees and asylum seekers
- Diversity, which refers to immigrants from countries with low emigration rates to the US
Within these categories, 44 percent of 2015 green cards went to immigrants with US citizen family members and another 20 percent had family members with permanent resident status.
Refugees comprised 11 percent of 2015’s green cards. The Trump administration is seeking cap on refugee admission, which would further affect how resident cards are distributed.
Choosing the right path
Immigration status is always a sensitive topic, filled with uncertainty and social anxiety. Anyone seeking legal status in the US should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your path.
There are many different ways to seek residence. A trained professional understands the paperwork required and can help you to navigate different options, considering your family, your timeline and other issues related to your personal situation.