Green Card

For most people, there are three ways to get green card: employment, national interest waiver, and family relationship.


There are different categories:

First: Priority workers, usually for university professors.
Second: Members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability. People with a master's degree and some work experience can easily qualify.
Third: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.
Fourth: Certain special immigrants.
Fifth: Employment creation.

The process is basically the same:

  • Get a job offer, and make sure your employer can sponsor your green card process.
  • Get H-1 visa from INS. Your job needs to have something to do with your education and experience.
  • Apply for a labor certificate from the Labor Department of your state, who will forward your application to the US Department of Labor for approval. The labor department requires that your job be advertised for a certain amount of time, and no US citizen has qualified for the job. Your lawyer and employer can show evidence that this was already done before you were hire, and use something called "reduction in recruitment" to speed up the process.
  • File immigration petition (I-140) to INS.
  • File adjustment of status (I-485) to INS. You need to meet the priority date for your category in order to file I-485. For the current priority dates, look at the Department of State Visa Bulletin. When filing I-485, you can apply for employment authorization for both your spouse and yourself. With that, your spouse can work freely in the US, and you can still work even when your H-1 visa has expired, or take part-time employment besides keeping your current job.When filing I-485, you need to provide your birth certificate, evidence showing you have not been "out of status," and go through a physical examination and immunization process.
  • Finger print. You will receive a notice from INS to go to a local office for finger prints, which will be submitted to FBI for checking of criminal record. About 10 days after you did the finger print, you can call FBI at (304)625-5590 to check on the status. Sometimes you need to re-do the finger print. It can take INS months to tell you that you need to re-do it. By checking with FBI directly, you can find it out early and contact your local office to get it done.

National Interest Waiver

If you are studying or working in a field that is considered important for the national interest of the US (e.g. environmental studies, medical research, etc.), and you have published papers in that field, you might be eligible for immigration through national interest waiver. You don't need employer sponsorship. But you do need recommendation letters from both your professors and preferably from people in a US government agency.


The categories are:

First: Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens.
Second: A.) Spouses and children, and B.) Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years or older) of permanent residents.
Third: Married sons and daughters of citizens.
Fourth: Brothers and sisters of adult citizens.

The process is very slow for the third and fourth categories. It can take over 10 years.

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Related Information

Highlights of new immigration law passed in Oct. 2000:

* If you are on H-1 visa and want to change jobs, you can start working for the new employer on the day you file for the new H-1 visa. No need to wait for approval any more.

* If you have filed I-485 for at least six months, you are free to change jobs without affecting your I-485 application, as long as the new job similar to the job that has sponsored your green card process.

* If you have been on H-1 visa for 6 years and have filed for I-140, you can still work in the US under H-1 visa, as long as you renew your H-1 visa on a yearly basis. No need to leave the US any more.

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