Becoming a legal permanent resident of the United States is a lengthy bureaucratic process. Once you determine your eligibility, you will need to find someone who can sponsor your application. Then, you and your sponsor will have to provide substantial evidence of your status, employment, or relationship. The process of becoming a legal permanent resident will generally take at least a year from the date you start filing, but successful applicants will finish the process with their Green Card, which grants permanent legal residence.
Determine if you are eligible by having a family member sponsor you.
One of the most common forms of eligibility are sponsorships from a family member. If you have a family member who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent U.S. resident and is at least 21-years-old, you may be eligible to apply. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines family member as:
The spouse of a U.S. citizen or legal resident
The unmarried child of a U.S. citizen or legal resident
The married child of a U.S. citizen
The parent of a U.S. citizen or legal resident
The brother or sister of a U.S. citizen
The fiancé of a U.S. citizen (under special immigration admission)
The widow or widower of a U.S. citizenc
Seek sponsorship through your employer
Some employers are willing to sponsor an immigrant for permanent residency. This is required if you possess an exceptional skill or ability that is not commonly found in the general working population. You must do a test with the labor market to illustrate that there are no available individuals for the job in the US, which is why you'd be eligible for a green card.
Preference is typically given to immigrant workers that have extraordinary abilities in the sciences, art, education, business, or athletics, exceptional researchers and professors, and multinational managers.
Secondary preference is given to those whose profession requires an advanced degree, those who have exceptional abilities in the arts, sciences, or business, and those who are seeking a national interest waiver.
Third preference is given if you are a skilled worker, professional, or other worker. Skilled workers require 2 years of training or experience, while professionals must hold a U.S. baccalaureate degree or an equivalent, plus work in the field. Other workers may be unskilled but are not temporary or seasonal employees.
Physicians who agree to work full-time in clinical practices in a designated underserved area for a set period of time may also apply under the Physician National Interest Waiver.
Immigrant investors who are actively in the process of investing at least $1 million in non-rural areas or $500,000 in a rural area in new commercial enterprises in the U.S. which will create at least 10 full-time positions for qualifying employees may also be eligible for employment sponsorship.
Meet with an immigration attorney
Prior to filing for lawful permanent resident status, you may want to meet with a U.S. Immigration Attorney. They can not only help make sure you are completely eligible, they can also help you prepare your forms and documents and assist with any complications that may arise.
You can check U.S. Justice Department’s List of Pro Bono Legal Service Providers to see if there are attorneys or legal resources in your area to help you prepare for your immigration filings free of charge.