Getting a USCIS Green Card is an important step and a proud moment for people who want to live permanently and work in the United States. A Green Card, or permanent residence, opens the door to many opportunities such enabling individuals to permanently live and work in the U.S., along with providing a path to citizenship for those who wish to become U.S. citizens. Even with the cooperation of an eligible family member, it can be a challenge to get all the bases covered properly which can lead to unnecessary delays or even denials. Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help avoid common pitfalls associated with green card denials and delays.
Immediate Relatives versus Preference Categories
The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) divides family based immigrants into two categories, “immediate relatives” and “preference based immigrants”. Immediate relatives are permitted to immigrate at any time and there is no limitation on the number of individuals who may immigrate in these categories. For example, the parents, spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are permitted to immigrate at any time. Of course, they must file the necessary applications and evidence and go through the proper processes but there is no limit on how many individuals can immigrate in these categories.
Family members in the “preference categories”; however, are subject to statutory quotas or annual limits. Because the number of “green cards” USCIS is permitted to issue each year is limited in these categories, waiting times can be lengthy. The preference categories include the following:
- First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. (Age 21 or older)
- Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents
- Second Preference (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters (any age) of permanent residents
- Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
Most I-551 cards (green cards) are issued with a validity period of 10 years; however, in some situations a green card may be “conditional”. A conditional green card, or conditional permanent resident, receives a card that is valid for 2 years and specific conditions must be met in order for the “conditions” to be removed and a 10 year card issued. Filing in the specified time frames to remove conditions is critical as both the Obama administration and Trump administration have followed a policy of initiating removal proceedings against individuals who fail to file to remove conditions in the required timeframe. If you are subject to conditions, a lawyer can assist you in making sure your application to remove conditions is timely filed and has the right supporting evidence.
Experienced Immigration Attorneys
The Kissimmee Law Firm of Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie & Finkenbinder is experienced in helping clients get their green cards, so they can enjoy the freedom and security that permanent residence provides. Contact us by calling 407-847-5151 to schedule a consultation, and we’ll tell you how we can help and what you can expect from the process.