Five Paths To A Green Card – A Guide To Permanent Residence

This is an ongoing series on simplifying and demystifying immigration law.

Today, I’m going to discuss the paths to a green card.

Now, I’m not going to take a traditional approach. The traditional approach will probably bore you and not only will I have to use language that you may not understand that is certainly not simplifying immigration law.

In my view, there are five paths in immigration law. Three of them are non-court paths, two of them are court paths. The non-court paths are three.

Basically, what is a non-court path? That is when you go to an immigration assistant, perhaps a lawyer, perhaps a paralegal, perhaps a consultant, and they fill out paperwork for you. They submit that to the government. If everything goes right, you will go to an interview with an immigration officer and eventually receive your green card.

However, things do not always go right. But let us start there anyway.

Family Petitions. Family members can immigrate you. A husband can immigrate a wife. A brother can immigrate a sister. A child can immigrate a parent. And of course a parent can immigrate a child.

Special Programs. What are special programs?

Well, there are various types of special programs. There are those that are humanitarian-oriented. There are those to protect victims of violence. There are those that are just, they do not fit in any category.

What is an example of humanitarian program? Asylum. TPS. And TPS right now people have probably heard of because of what has happened in Haiti. A big earthquake there caused a new TPS program. Temporary Protected Status. There are special rules for victims of domestic violence. There is VAWA. Violence against Women Act. And then there are the U visas and T visas for people who have been trafficked into the United States. Those are examples of special programs. Everything goes right, you may end up with a green card just on the paperwork.

The third one is Employment Petitions. This is when an employer sponsors you. This is more likely to be successful if you are a professional or if you have special talents. Musicians get these temporary permits to come in and out of the country. So that is a non-court path.

If something goes wrong at the end of the line, or even in the middle, you could end up in immigration court.

But there are two more paths. And these categories most people think of in terms of individuals who do not have immigration documents. So they end up in immigration court.

Deportation or Removal. You go to a judge and you say, wait a minute your honor, yes, you can kick me out, I am here without documents but there is a reason why you should allow me to stay here. I am asking for your forgiveness. Deportation or Removal. Then sometimes a judge will say, no, I am not allowing you to stay here. We are going to remove you from the U.S. You do not deserve to be here. Well, judges are human beings. Judges make mistakes. And you can challenge those mistakes.

So you run into the area of Immigration Appeals. If you win an appeal you’re not going to win your green card. But you will come back to the judge and I guarantee you my experience has been that when I come back to immigration court after I have won an appeal, the judge is looking at the case differently because basically you have shown the judge that they made a mistake and you are not afraid to challenge them.

So what is the end result here? In all of these, and they are all connected, the goal is to get a green card, to become a permanent resident and hopefully someday you take that and become a U.S. citizen.