Naturalization is the process of acquiring American citizenship. Applicants for naturalization must be at least 18 years old and must establish that they qualify to become U.S. citizens based on residence and physical presence, good moral character, knowledge of the English language, U.S. history, and loyalty to the United States. There are exceptions and exemptions to the requirements for military personnel.

A U.S. citizen is not the same as a Green Card holder. A Green Card holder, or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), can enjoy all the rights of a U.S. citizen to live and work in the United States and pay state and federal taxes. A Lawful Permanent Resident can freely travel in and out of the United States, though an extended absence of one year or more may cause for grounds to revoke the Green Card, or cause a delay in applying for naturalization unless the proper paperwork has been filed prior to the trip. A successful naturalization applicant will have continuously resided in the U.S. for 5 years and have been physically present for a cumulative 3 years. If the Green Card holder is married to a U.S. citizen he or she may apply for naturalization 3 years after continuously residing in the U.S. and being physically present for half the time, provided the applicant is still living with the U.S. citizen spouse at the time of filing the application. An applicant must reside within the state in which the application is filed for at least three months.

There are several paths to obtaining a Green Card as outlined below.

Employment-Based Green Cards
This is when an American employer in the United States offers an alien worker employment, and then sponsors them for a Green Card. Preference is given to applicants with exceptional abilities, education, and training. An applicant must have an offer of employment first in order to apply.

Click on Employment-Based Green Cards on the left for more information.

Investment-Based Green Cards
If a foreign investor will get a Green Card if they invest $500,000 to $1,000,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. and that will stimulate the U.S. economy. The investment must produce at least ten permanent full time jobs for U.S. workers within two years of the investor’s entry to the United States.

Click on Investment-Based Green Card on the left for more information.

Family-Based Green Card
A U.S. Citizen or Green Card holder can petition for a family member to come to the U.S. and get a Green Card. A U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident can petition for their husband, wife, and unmarried children. If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen of at least 21 years of age, they can also file for their siblings or parents. Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot be petitioned.

Click on Family-Based Green Card on the left for more information.

Green Card Diversity Visa Program

Every year the State Department issues 55,000 immigrant visas available to applicants from countries with low immigration rates to the United States. The visas are available through a lottery system and the list of countries changes each year.

Click on Green Card Diversity Program on the left for more information.

Asylum/Refugee
A refugee is a person who is brought to the U.S. for protection from harm in their home country. Asylum may be granted to people who are already in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership to a particular social group, or political opinion. If an applicant is granted asylum, he or she will be able to live and work in the U.S. and will be able to apply for permanent resident status one year after being granted asylum.

Click on Asylum/Refugee on the left for more information.

U Visas and T Visas:
The “U” Nonimmigrant visa is for victims who have suffered mental or physical abuse as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens, robbery, and other crimes. To qualify for the U visa, a person must have been a victim of a crime and be willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation of the criminal activity.

The T visa was implemented when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 in order to provide victims who have severely suffered the ability to stay in the U.S. and receive federal support and protection from crimes, such as crimes against women. The law also allowed for law enforcement agencies more comprehensive abilities to persecute and convict traffickers.

Click on U Visa & T Visa on the top for more information.

Other Visas
Other visas and statuses include: tourists and visitor visas, student and exchange visas, and Temporarily Protected Status (TPS). Not all of these may lead directly to obtaining a Green Card, but they do allow for lawful stay in the United States for a fixed amount of time.

Click on Other Visas on the top for more information.

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