How Many Types of Green Card Are There?

February 8, 2022

Did you know that there are 366,000 green cards available per year?

Considering the millions of people that apply annually, you might be worried that your chances are slim.

Thankfully, there are multiple green card categories, and you’re going to be more eligible for some categories than others. Within the four primary categories of green cards, there are separate requirements and separate subcategories. With this variety, you may just find that there is one you qualify for.

Keep reading to learn about the various green card types, eligibility criteria, and more.

Family-Sponsored Green Card

A family-sponsored green card is one of the most common types of green card. If you have a family member living in the US, you might be able to apply for a family-sponsored green card. However, several other important eligibility criteria must be met. 

First of all, your family member must be a US citizen or US permanent resident and they must be willing to sponsor your application. The family member must be either your spouse, child, parent, or sibling. Take note that these family members are also sorted by preference:

  • 1st preference – unmarried sons and daughters (over 21 years old) of US citizens 
  • 2nd preference – unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
  • 3rd preference – married sons and daughters of US citizens
  • 4th preference – brothers and sisters of US citizens (over 21 years old)

Note that extended family members are not eligible to sponsor you. These include aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Widows and widowers who were married to a US citizen at the time of their death are also eligible. 

The family member sponsoring you must have a valid US address and must be 21 years old or older. They must also prove that they will be able to financially support you for the first few months until you can secure a job.

Employment Green Card Types

The employment green card is another one of the most common US green card types, but it still has its own criteria. For an employment-based green card, you must have a job offer and formal written proof of it. 

If you are an experienced worker with education, then the employment-based green card might be a good option for you. However, don’t forget that a labor market test must also be conducted. This is where the company must prove that there are no eligible US workers available to fill your job role.

The company sponsoring you must also give financial statements to immigration proving that they will be able to pay your salary. You also must not have a criminal past and must not have previously overstayed any other type of US visa.

Recently, prospective immigrants from certain countries, like India and China, are experiencing shorter wait times depending on the subcategory of their employment green card. This decreased wait time is explained by immigration law firm Graham Adair

Employment green cards can be classified into several categories:

  • EB-1 (priority workers with extraordinary ability, like notable university professors or multinational executives)
  • EB-2 (have at least a master’s degree and in a job that requires exceptional ability)
  • Eb-3 (skilled, professional, and unskilled workers, such as computer workers and chefs)
  • Eb-4 (special workers such as religious workers and media professionals)
  • Eb-5 (investors who have invested at least $1 million in a new company in the US that will create jobs for at least 10 employees

Remember that there are different types of green card processing, and categories such as EB-2 and EB-3 have three stages.

Most workers tend to fall into the EB-3 category when applying to jobs in the US, especially in growing fields like technology and IT. Make sure to check if your prospective employer is willing to sponsor you for a visa if you get a job offer. Some employers explicitly state on their job posting that they are only considering those eligible to work in the US.

Humanitarian Category Green Card

Humanitarian green cards can be separated into five primary categories:

  • Refugee (admitted as a refugee at least 1 year ago)
  • Asylee (received asylee status at least 1 year ago)
  • Human trafficking victim (must currently have a T nonimmigrant visa)
  • Crime victim (must currently have a U nonimmigrant visa)
  • Victim of abuse (4 subcategories)

These humanitarian green cards have additional requirements, so make sure to do thorough research if you think you could fall under one of these categories. For example, human trafficking victims applying for a green card must demonstrate good moral character. This means that they have not committed crimes like fraud or murder, and they must also prove that they will face severe hardship, danger, and harm should they have to leave the US.

Other Green Card Categories

There are a number of other green card categories that are smaller and often based on various laws or acts. These additional categories include:

  • Liberian nationals who have been physically present in the US since Nov. 2014
  • Cuban natives or citizens and their children
  • American Indians born in Canada, who have more than 50% American Indian blood and whose principal residence is in the US
  • Foreign diplomats who are unable to return home.

Likely the best-known green card under this category is the Diversity Immigrant visa lottery. This category is one with some of the least green card requirements. The applicant must have 1) been born in an eligible country and 2) have at least a high school education, its equivalent, or a minimum of two years of training or experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training to perform. 

Each year, the US government will randomly select 50,000 entries that it receives for this lottery. For fairness, each country may only get a maximum of 7% of the total green cards in this category.

Note that the eligible countries for the diversity lottery change from year to year depending on how many people immigrate to the US from these countries. For example, immigrants from Canada, South Korea, and Mexico are not eligible as of 2020 because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the US in the past five years. 

Start Your Green Card Application Process Today

Although it might be simple to explain the various green card types, the eligibility criteria and application process are complex and can be confusing. Make sure to do your research and contact an experienced immigration lawyer if you are unsure of your green card eligibility or need any help. 

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some more articles from our law category.

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