The most common question I hear as an immigration attorney is “How do I get my Green Card?” Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. This question is one that requires an understanding of each individual’s personal and professional situation to present the options available for Permanent Residency.
Most believe that once they receive a non-immigrant visa (student, visitor, temporary worker) and enter the U.S., adjusting their status to “immigrant” is easier. This is not the case. In fact, in most cases, this process makes it more difficult to obtain an immigrant visa.
The difficulty is that non-immigrant visa holders must show intent to leave the country upon the termination of their visa during the application process. When the non-immigrant then applies to adjust status, the first thing the immigration officer questions is the applicant’s original non-immigrant intent. This means that when you applied for a non-immigrant visa, you stated that your time in the U.S. would be temporary. When you later apply for a green card, you are showing that you wish to live in the U.S. permanently, and the USCIS may think that you were not being honest in your original non-immigrant application.
This is not to say that it is impossible to adjust your non-immigrant status to become a permanent resident. Many applicants are successful in doing so every year. It is just important to understand what options are available and when the best time is to apply for each option.
Some of the most common applicants that are adjusted are:
- Student visa to permanent employment visa (time sensitive and requires job offer and sponsoring company);
- Student visa to H1-B status (requires sponsoring company) to permanent employment visa;
- Temporary worker to permanent employment visa; or
- Any non-immigrant visa to permanent resident via spousal petition by U.S. citizen spouse.
These options are just some of the most common routes, but they may not be available for everyone. Figuring out your personal and professional goals will help map out what immigration options would be most beneficial to your situation. As stated before, every situation is different, so reach out to an immigration specialist and see what your options are!