Los Angeles Immigration Attorneys
Lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders, are allowed to reside and take employment in the United States. While the benefits are terrific, the process of securing and protecting your green card is a road filled with many obstacles.
At the Law Offices of Elsa Martinez, we help our clients with immigration issues such as securing a green card and protecting it. Our Los Angeles immigration attorneys bring 20 years of collective experience to the table. Since 2001, we have worked with countless families on cases ranging from deportation and detainment to student immigration and green cards.
Obtaining a Green Card
1. Immediate Family Members
One of the most common and simple ways to get a green card is through family. If you’re directly related to a lawful U.S. citizen, your relative may be able to petition for you to live in the United States. Immediate relatives have a much quicker green card process than other types of family. Below is a list of who the USCIC considers eligible for immediate family:
- Spouses of a U.S. citizen
- Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
- Parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
- Widows or widowers of a U.S. citizen who died during marriage lasting longer than 2 years
- Stepchildren or stepparents of a U.S. citizen, if the marriage took place before the child’s 18th birthday
- Adopted children of a U.S. citizen, if the adoption took place before the child’s 16th birthday
2. Other Family Members
All other family members fall under several different categories, including family-based preference, K-1 nonimmigrant and victims of battery or extreme cruelty:
- Fiancés of a U.S citizen
- Children of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen
- Unmarried adults, age 21 or older, who have at least one U.S. citizen parent
- Spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of a green card holder
- Married people who have at least one U.S. citizen parent
- Sisters and brothers of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
- Abused spouses, parents, and children under the age of 21 of a U.S citizen or lawful resident
Another popular way to obtain a green card is through employment in the United States. Each year, hundreds of thousands of workers are admitted, and because of the sheer number of applications, there is a preference category system in place. Below are the three tiers of the system:
- First preference: Workers who have extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, are outstanding professors or researchers or are multinational managers or executives who meet certain criteria.
- Second preference: Workers who are members of a profession that requires an advanced degree, have exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts or business, or are seeking a national interest waiver.
- Third preference: Workers who are skilled (meaning your job requires a minimum of 2 years training or experience), professionals (meaning your job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or equivalent) or unskilled (meaning your job requires less than 2 years training or experience).
Physicians who agree to work full-time in an underserved area in the U.S. and investors who have put at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. are both eligible for green cards as well.
4. Special Immigrants
A special immigrant is a person who qualities for a green card under the USCIS special immigrant program. The list of “special immigrants” includes:
- Religious workers
- International broadcasters
- Juvenile court dependents
- Armed Forces members
- Afghanistan or Iraq nationals who support or supported the U.S. Armed Forces as translators
- Iraq nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq
5. Refugees and Asylees
Refugees who were admitted at least a year ago and asylees who were granted status at least a year ago may be eligible for green cards.
People who have resided continuously in the U.S since before January 1, 1972 may be eligible to register for a green card.
In addition to the list above, other non-citizens who may be eligible for green cards include:
- Human trafficking and crime victims who currently have a T/U nonimmigrant visa
- Cuban natives or citizens
- Abused spouses or children of a Cuban native or citizen
- Abused spouses or children of a lawful permanent resident who received their green card based on HRIFA
- Born Canadians who have 50% or more American Indian race blood
Protecting Your Green Card
Once you receive your green card, it is important to stay in good standing with the U.S. government. Typically, you can lose your green card in one of two ways:
- Leaving the United States for extended periods of time. A couple of guidelines to follow: 1) Do not leave the U.S. for more than 6 months at a time, 2) If you plan on leaving for more than a year, apply for a reentry permit.
- Violating the law. Green card holders who commit“crimes of moral turpitude” such as fraud or larceny, or an“aggravated felony” such as rape or murder may be deported.
You may also be deported if you do not notify the USCIS of an address change within 10 days of moving or if you fail to register with the Selective Service System, if you qualify.
Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers may be able to help you obtain and protect your permanent status. If you are applying for a green card or are in trouble with the USCIS, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Enlist our help today to get the legal guidance you deserve.
Contact us online or call (213) 489-5202 to schedule a personal consultation.