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While many employment-based green cards require a job offer from a company in the United States, there are alternatives available for those who have yet to receive U.S. job offers. 

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) lists eight different types of green cards, and employment-based green cards only comprise one of those categories.

In this article, Pelton and Balducci’s Louisiana-based immigration law team highlights the different paths to living your American Dream.

Green Card Eligibility Categories

USCIS lists eight categories of green cards. Though some are more common than others, there is one type that will best fit your situation.

  • Green Card through Family: Relatives of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, fiances or widowers of U.S. citizens, or VAWA (Viiolence Against Women Act) self-petitioners (victim of battery or extreme cruelty) may be eligible for a green card through their family.
  • Green Card through Employment: Immigrant workers, physicians with national interest waivers, or immigrant investors may be eligible for a green card through employment. It is worth noting that many immigrant workers gain sponsorship after first entering the United States as an F-1 University student. Becoming a student and earning a degree(s) in the United States greatly increases an applicant’s chances of eventually securing a green card through employment.
  • Green Card as a “Special Immigrant”: Religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, Afghanistan or Iraq nationals, international broadcasters, or employees of international organizations or their families may be eligible for a green card as a special immigrant. Many of the Central American youth who have crossed the border in recent years qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) because they have been abandoned, abused, and/or neglected by one or both parents in their country of origin. 
  • Green Card through Refugee or Asylee Status: Asylees of 1+ years or refugees of 1+ years are generally eligible to apply for a green card through refugee or asylee status. It is critical that asylees and refugees avoid return travel to the country from which they fled in order to preserve their protected status in the United States. 
  • Green Card for Human Trafficking and Crime Victims: Human trafficking and U.S. crime victims who hold current T or U nonimmigrant visas, and their families, may be eligible for a green card for human trafficking and crime victims after holding this nonimmigrant status for a certain number of years.
  • Green Card for Victims of Abuse: VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles (see above), abused spouse or child under the Cuban Adjustment Act, or an abused spouse or child under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act may be eligible for a green card for victims of abuse.
  • Green Card through Other Categories: Certain Liberian nationals, individuals selected through the diversity visa lottery, Cuban natives or citizens, or other individuals may be eligible for a green card through specially created other categories.
  • Green Card through Registry: Individuals who have resided continuously in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972 may be eligible to register for a green card. They must be able to provide some evidence of their residence in the United States since January 1, 1972.

What if I want to apply for a Green Card Through Employment?

Obtaining a green card through employment is a popular option for those who want to build a career here in the U.S.

There are two types of employment-based green cards:

  • Employer-Sponsored Green Cards: Offered to individuals sponsored by their U.S.-based job.
  • Non-Employer-Sponsored Green Cards (Self-Petition Green Cards): Offered to individuals with extraordinary abilities or with a National Interest Waiver.

Self-Petition Green Card

It is not always easy to find a sponsoring employer. Some businesses and employers have limits on how many immigrant employees they can sponsor, and on what positions they can sponsor.

The self-petition option can help an applicant navigate around the limitations of sponsoring employers.

The two preference categories for self-petition green cards are:

  • Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A): Offered to individuals with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Individuals must provide evidence of excellence, such as prizes or awards, and that they will continue in their fields in the U.S.
  • National Interest Waiver (NIW or EB-2): Offered to individuals of professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability. Individuals must show documentation of their advanced degrees in an endeavor of “substantial merit” and “national importance,” and prove they will advance in said endeavor.

Contact Pelton and Balducci Immigration Lawyers

Our Louisiana team at Pelton and Balducci understands the green card process can seem daunting. However, with over 50 years of combined experience, we are ready to guide future Americans on the path to success. Contact us today to discuss your options so you can start building your life here with a U.S. green card.

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