Green Cards

Green Card status: 
US permanent residence for UK citizens and international clients

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Green Cards for UK citizens and international clients

Permanent resident status through USA green cards may be acquired directly from employment categories such as business investments, persons of extraordinary ability and other people interested in pursuing a career in the states. Green card status can also open doors to US citizenship provided certain residency and other criteria are met.

Spousal relationships and certain family ties create another source for the acquisition of US green cards and subsequent acquisition of US citizenship.

The green card lottery provides yet another avenue for permanent residence in the United States.

Green Card Lottery

Migration to the USA may be possible by virtue of the green card lottery.

The diversity immigrant visa program makes USA permanent resident visas available each year. A Maximum of 50,000 visas is usually issued annually. Successful applicants are chosen at random.

The native of a particular country refers to a person born in that country, regardless of current nationality. Thus, an applicant is required to have been born in a qualifying country (or be married to an eligible applicant who fulfils all the criteria including birth in a qualifying country) or be the minor child, under 21, of a person born in a qualifying country.

Applicants who do not qualify for the green card lottery in the UK, may qualify for a green card or other USA visas through other avenues. See Information on US visas.

As one of the leading USA immigration law firms in the UK, we handle all matters pertinent to US citizenship, immigration and nationality law, including green cards. UK clients and other foreign nationals are welcome. 

Green Card Status: USA Permanent Residence: Family & Employment

USA immigration laws establish two categories of aliens who may immigrate permanently to the United States - holders of preference and non-preference types of US visas. Those who benefit from either one of these types of visas qualify to live and/or work in the USA.

Preference System for US permanent visas for UK residents and other foreigners. There are four preferences of family-sponsored immigrants and five categories of employment-based immigrants. 

Family: USA Permanent Visas

Non-preference categories are as follows:

Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens

These USA visas are subject to 23,000 issuances annually and include adult, divorced sons and daughters of US citizens.

A daughter or a son is adjudicated to be different from the child of a US citizen. A child, for US migration purposes, is the unmarried son or daughter of a US citizen under the age of 21. A child is allowed to enter the United States without any regard for the numerical quota. Thus, the son or daughter can be of any age to qualify for a visa under this category.

Spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent resident aliens

This preference is pertinent to the spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of legal permanent resident aliens in the United States. Age is irrelevant for this category of visas. A minimum of 114,000 visas is allotted annually plus any unused visas for the first preference visas.

Seventy-seven percent of the visas are allocated to spouses and children of permanent residents whilst twenty-three percent are issued to unmarried sons and daughters. A divorced son or daughter is allowed to live and work in the USA as an immigrant beneficiary sponsored by a permanent resident alien.

If the sponsored alien resident then marries a foreign person, the spouse does not automatically become entitled to permanent residence. The permanent resident spouse is required to file a petition for the benefit of the other party. Whilst the petition is pending, the foreign spouse must remain outside of the USA until his/her visa application is approved.

Married sons and daughters of United States citizens.

This preference allocates 23,400 visas per year plus any other visas that have not been used by the first two family-sponsored preference groups. Applications apply to adult sons and daughters of US citizens who wish to live and/or work in the United States on a permanent basis.

Brothers and sisters of United States citizens.

This fourth preference of visas applies to those who have US citizen brother and sisters. The annual issuance for this visa is 65,000 plus any other visas which have not been utilized in the other family-based preference categories.

The United States citizen must be at least twenty-one years of age to file a petition for the benefit of the foreign alien. The foreign sibling applies for a visa upon the approval of the petition.

Half brothers and sisters of US citizens also qualify to apply for a visa in this category as long as the relationship was established before both siblings reached the age of 21. 

Green cards are issued following the acquisition of US permanent residence. The two are regarded as synonymous. 
Note: Annual quotas outlined above may be subject to change.

Preference Categories:

Spouses, children and parents of US citizens are afforded immediate relative status and are in a comparatively advantageous position for US immigration purposes. This provides substantial benefits in relation to processing times of green card petitions and their correlating US visa applications amongst other benefits.

Employment: Permanent USA Visas

There are five different categories of employment-based USA work visas synonymous with US permanent residence (acquisition of a green card). These are referred to as the EB preference system. The worldwide limit for these visas is 140,000 plus unused family-sponsored preference visas from the previous year. These visas allow their beneficiaries to live and work in the USA on a permanent basis.

The first employment-based preference type of US visa is available to persons of extraordinary ability, (EB-1) outstanding professors and researchers and certain executives and managers of multinational organizations.

The second preference known as the EB-2 visa category allows for the USA immigration of foreign nationals with advanced degrees and those with exceptional ability whose employment in the USA would be in the national interest of the country.

The third preference is classified as the EB-3 category. This includes skilled workers.
A labour certification or schedule A petition is required for all EB-3 petitions. An immigrant petition form (form I-140) must also be filed with documents proving the employer and beneficiary satisfy the applicable regulations.

EB-1: Priority USA permanent residence Visas

Aliens possessing extraordinary abilities
There are three types of individuals that qualify for permanent USA visas under this category of which one of them is a person of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education or athletics.

The beneficiary of this USA visa must demonstrate a particularly high level of achievement substantiated by the receipt of an award such as the Nobel Peace Prize or the Academy Award for motion pictures or, alternatively, provide one of the following three types of evidence:

1. Receipt of a lesser national or international prize or award for excellence in the particular field of endeavour.
2. Membership in associations which require outstanding achievements from their members, as judged by nationally or internationally recognised experts in the particular field.
3. Published material in professional journals, major trade publications or the major media about the alien’s accomplishments in the field of endeavour. These items must include title, date, author and must be translated to English.
4. Participated on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same field of endeavour.
5. Original scientific, scholarly or artistic contributions of major significance in the field of endeavour.
6. Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals or other major media (national newspapers, magazines etc).
7. Display of his/her work at artistic exhibitions in more than one country.
8. Performance in a lead, starring or critical role for organisations or establishments with distinguished reputations.
9. Commanding a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others.
10. Commercial success in the performing arts, as shown by box office receipts, record, cassette, compact disc or video sales.
11. Other comparable evidence if the above types of evidence do not readily apply to the aliens occupation.

Outstanding professor or researchers
Foreigners who have received international acclaim as professors or researchers in their particular field may apply for a visa to live and work in the USA on EB-1 green card status.
They must possess at least three years of experience in teaching or research in the area and seek to enter the United States for a tenured or tenure-track teaching or research position. The position can be in a university or other educational institution including private organisations as long as the USA employer has at least three other employees engaged in full time research.
The foreign professor or researcher must provide evidence of international recognition in the following format to qualify for this visa
• Receipt of major international prizes or awards for outstanding achievement in the academic field
• Membership in academic associations requiring outstanding achievement
• Published materials and professional publications written by others about the aliens work
• Participation on a panel or as an individual judging work of others
• Original scientific/scholarly research contribution
• Authorship of scholarly books or articles

Multinational managers and executives:
The EB-1 visa category extends to certain executives and managers of multinational entities who wish to apply for green cards (permanent residence) thus, live and work in the USA on a permanent basis.
A petition must be filed with the pertinent USA immigration department by the multinational organisation. The entity must also maintain offices in the United States and at least one other country. To qualify, the company in the US must share common ownership with the foreign organisation or a parent, subsidiary or affiliate entity. 
The multinational entity must have been doing business in the United States for a year or more prior to the filing of the petition. USA immigration provisions define doing business as selling goods or providing services regularly, systematically and continuously.
Executive and managerial employees: The visa holder must have worked in an executive or managerial position in the foreign entity for at least one year in the three years prior to the filing of the petition. The position to be filled in the US entity must also be executive of managerial in nature.
An offer of employment to the employee from the pertinent multinational organisation must be submitted as part of the petitioning documents.
USA immigration regulations define executive capacity as employment within the entity in which the employee's primary duties are as follows:
• Directs the management of the organisation or a majority component or function of the organisation
• Establishes the goals and policies of the organisation, component or function
• Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision making and
Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors or stockholders of the organisation.

Managerial capacity is defined as:
• Manages the organisation or department, subdivision, function or component of the organisation
• Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees or manages an essential function within the organisation or a department or subdivision of the organisation
• Has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorisation) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised; if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organisational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed and
• Exercises discretion over the day to day operations of the activity or function which the employee has authority.

EB-2: Exceptional Ability & National Interest Waiver

A national interest waiver may be acquired under the second preference employment category for aliens of exceptional abilities in the science, arts or business and advanced degree professionals. The annual quota for the issuance of these visas is 40,000 plus any unused visas from the first preference employment category.

If the alien beneficiary can satisfy three of the following criteria s/he may qualify for an exceptional ability second preference visa

• Possesses an official degree, diploma, certificate or academic record from a recognised institution relating to the area of exceptional ability

• Provide evidence from current or former employers showing ten years of experience in the field

• Possesses a license or certificate authorising the practise in a particular area 

• Can prove that the salary received indicates exceptional ability

• Membership in a professional association related to the area of exceptional ability

• Proof of recognition for achievements and contributions to the field or industry by peers, government entities, professional or business organisations

• Equivalent evidence to the above criteria that is more specific to the field of expertise

Ordinarily, a job offer and labour certification will be required for aliens applying for permanent residence on the basis of second preference employment. However, these requirements can be waived if the beneficiary can show that the proposed employment is in the national interest. What constitutes work of national interest is in the discretion of the Immigration authorities. It is for the petitioner to convince them that the work that he/she intends to pursue in the U.S falls under this category.

EB-3: Professional, skilled & other US Work Visas

Professional workers:
US immigration regulations provide that the petition for a professional classification must be accompanied by evidence that the alien holds a baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree, and by evidence, the alien is a member of the professions.

Evidence of a baccalaureate degree shall be in the form of an official college or university record. To show that the alien is a member of the professions, the petitioner must submit evidence showing that the minimum of a baccalaureate degree is required for the occupation.

Skilled workers:
For classification as a skilled worker, the USA immigration laws provide that skilled worker means an alien who is capable at the time of the petitioning of performing skilled labour requiring at least two years training or experience not of a temporary or seasonal nature. Relevant post-secondary education may be considered relevant for this purpose.

The USCIS requires that the alien possesses two years of training, work experience and college education, not just capability to perform the job. College education or work experience must be verified by certificates or letters.

Other workers:
These workers are categorized as unskilled and those who meet the education and work experience for the job. The petitions are for those positions requiring less than two years of training, work experience or college education.
There is a definite advantage in being classified as a skilled worker as opposed to an unskilled worker. As an unskilled worker, the alien could be waiting several more years for a green card petition or visa application to be approved.
For all the above classifications, the employment must be offered as a result of a lack of qualified US workers willing and able to perform the job in question and furthermore, the job classification does not adversely affect US workers.

EB-4: Special Immigrants & Religious workers

This employment based category of USA visas (EB-4) allows workers to immigrate to live and work in the USA. These include ministers, people working in professional positions or those working in a religious vocation or occupation and must possess either a US baccalaureate degree or the foreign equivalent.

The employee is required to have worked in the religious organisation for two years before admission into the states.

10,000 visas are allocated to this category annually plus any visas remnant from the other three employment based categories.

EB-5: Permanent Residence Investor Visas

The fifth employment based preference (EB-5) allows aliens to migrate permanently to the United states if they invest one million dollars (or five hundred thousand dollars in an area considered to be rural or one of high unemployment) in a new business.

The organisation must employ at least ten US citizens or legal residents.

The investor must be employed in the capacity of managing the business entity. However, by USA immigration standards, limited partners who in their definition have no managerial responsibilities also qualify for this visa category.

This visa is generally issued for an initial duration of two years after which time the visa will be made permanent and no longer subject to the investor's continued involvement in the enterprise.

Green card status is also offered through the pilot scheme program by virtue of an investment of $500,000 into an approved regional centre. This means that an investor is not personally engaged in running a business.

Our experienced team of US immigration attorneys routinely secure green cards for UK residents and international clients. Please contact us for further information on USA permanent residence visas.

USA Citizenship

The acquisition of US citizenship is often a product of permanent resident status. The duration involved for acquiring citizenship is contingent on the source of permanent residence. 

Employment-based green card holders and most other permanent residents will acquire US citizenship after five years of USA residence. Permanent residence based on marriage would curtail the durational requirements to gain USA citizenship to three years.

Permanent residents enjoy most of the benefits afforded to citizens; however, their status is more fragile than that of a citizen. There are certain conditions bestowed on this status that may result in the loss of the right to reside in the USA. Citizens are not subject to such conditions and it is, therefore, prudent to apply for green card status once eligible to do so.

"I engaged Solutions in Law to assist in obtaining an F1 student visa to the US in order to study for an MBA. Any concerns I had were discussed and detailed solutions provided about how best to proceed. I received my visa with no problems and in very quick time, with the greatest of help from Solutions in Law."

George Coe: Non-business category

From the first consultation through to the final embassy interview, Solutions in Law ensured that we were fully aware of the requirements and challenges ahead, but also that we were equipped to deal with them. Their guidance during the petitioning process was thorough and professional, but also empathetic; this was the first time our company had applied for a US visa and so the combination of reliability and approachability was an important and reassuring quality for us.
We would not hesitate in recommending Solutions in Law to anyone applying for a US working visa.

Stuart Costley
Vice President of The Big Picture Market Research Inc., The Big Picture Market Research Ltd
For personal advice please contact Solutions In Law Ltd for a consultation with one of our USA immigration lawyers.

020 7268 4859

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