With certain exceptions, most prospective immigrants to the U.S. are subject to annual quotas that limit the number of immigrants each fiscal year by preference category and by country of chargeability.
This essentially creates a “first-come, first-served” queue for admission as an immigrant, with the date of filing a particular petition (known as a “Priority Date”) determining eligibility. Each month, the U.S. Department of State issues its “Visa Bulletin” which establishes which Priority Dates may immigrate to the U.S. – akin to determining who is at the front of the line.
In addition to the principal immigrant (e.g. the individual sponsored by his/her employer), qualifying family members may receive “derivative” Green Cards. To qualify, the derivative immigrant must be the spouse of the principal or an unmarried child of the principal under the age of 21. Certain exceptions may apply if a petition was filed before the child’s 21st birthday and was pending. With extremely limited exceptions, the relationship between the principal immigrant and the derivative must have been in existence at the time the principal received permanent residency. For example, if an employment-based immigrant married a foreign national after admission as an immigrant, the spouse would not obtain a Green Card based on the underlying petition benefitting the principal immigrant.
Attached are the most common routes to permanent residency. (PDF)
Visit our family-immigration page for more information.
Asylum / Refugee
Immigrant status may be granted to individuals who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Please contact us for additional information.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, sometimes called the “Green Card Lottery,” randomly awards approximately 50,000 Green Cards to qualified visa applicants selected from a pool of filings each year. Individuals born in “low admission states,” that is, countries from where annual immigration to the United States is comparatively low, may apply.
In order to qualify, a principal applicant must also possess 1) a high school diploma or 2) within 5 years of making the application, at least 2 years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least 2 years’ training or experience. The odds of selection are relatively low, generally less than 1% worldwide. An applicant’s specific chances may vary significantly based on his/her region of origin, however, the chances of selection are generally too low for one to confidently plan to use the program as a viable immigration option. Nonetheless, the DV lottery has proven to be life changing for thousands of winners each year.