Whether you came here first on vacation, as a student, or as an employee of a multinational company, when you decide that you want to make the U.S. your permanent home, the next step is to get a Green Card. Once you have a permanent resident card (which is good for 10 years and renewable every decade after that), even after a student visa expires or you leave your job with that employer. They are not easy to obtain, and applicants must go through a series of steps that could take several months (and even years) to get one.
Perhaps the most important thing you could do at the start of this process is meet with an attorney who specializes in green card applications and immigration law. The laws to become a lawful permanent resident are complex, even for someone who speaks English as a first language and has lived in the U.S. for a while. Without the help of an attorney, you could miss important deadlines, forget a form, provide the wrong information, or miss something on the application that causes significant delays and even denial of your application.
Someone with a relative who is a U.S. citizen—such as a spouse, parent, or a child—can usually make a compelling case for why they should be granted a Green Card. There are also some special categories that you might fit into, such as a battered spouse, a widow or widower of a U.S. citizen, or a child of a foreign diplomat, that you can include on an application. An immigration attorney will be able to let you know if you qualify for any of these special categories.
If you are currently working for an employer, they may be able to fill out an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This is usually applicable to those in management level positions or higher, and/or someone who holds a degree in a field where there are a shortage of qualified workers in the U.S. That could also include work in a “favored” category of employment, such as working for an international organization, religious workers, and doctors, or those who invest in a significant business venture that creates jobs or expands business in the U.S.
Perhaps one of the hardest things about the immigration process is the waiting. Hiring an attorney can help ensure that your application stays on track, but there is nothing that can be done about the long, slow process that everyone must go through to obtain a Green Card. It’s also important to understand that these cards are not permanent, so if you want to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, get your Green Card and then consider applying for U.S. citizenship.
If you’re interested in become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., talk to an immigration attorney in Utah to learn what steps you need to take to get that process started today.