In the United States, a green card is a document that states the holder is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Lawful permanent resident status is the highest immigration status that a foreign citizen can earn in the United States before becoming a naturalized citizen. People from foreign countries may try for years to get a green card because of how valuable the document is and the rights and privileges that it can afford, but only U.S. citizens are free from the risk of deportation.
Green card holders may be lawful permanent residents of the United States, and they may live their entire lives in the United States, but only natural born and naturalized citizens of the United States are free from the risk of deportation. This means that green card holders may technically be deported if they are found to have violated immigration policy or a serious criminal offense, which is why anyone applying for or currently holding a green card is advised to be on his or her best behavior to avoid any risk of a deportation.
Can a Family Member be Sponsored?
Current rules in America’s immigration system allow individuals from foreign countries to qualify for a green card by family relationship. If the person is related by blood or marriage to a qualified member of the family, and that member of the family is him or herself a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, then the permanent resident or citizen may be allowed to sponsor the foreign family member for a green card.
U.S. citizens have considerably more flexibility on who they can sponsor, as they may sponsor spouses, children, and siblings. Lawful permanent residents on the other hand, who are holders of green cards themselves, may only sponsor spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. If a lawful permanent resident wants to sponsor a sibling or adult child, then the resident will have to first become a naturalized U.S. citizen before being able to sponsor the foreign family member.
Getting the Green Card
In order to begin the process of sponsoring a foreign family member, citizens and current permanent residents have to file a Form I-130 with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. The form is a Petition for Alien Relative. If the foreign family member is already lawfully located in the United States, perhaps under a work or student visa, then the sponsoring person will have to file a Form I-485.
Assuming that a foreign family member is outside of the United States at the time the sponsoring citizen or resident wants to sponsor the person, then the foreign family member may be required to complete his or her portion of the petitioning process through a U.S. embassy or consulate in the person’s country of origin / current residence.
For best results, sponsors and sponsored family members are encouraged to partner with an experienced immigration attorney for help through the green card application process. The attorney will ensure that all of the person’s paperwork has been filled out properly and that the application and any supporting documents are submitted in accordance with immigration rules.