What are the Green Card categories?

Each year the United States issues thousands of green cards. Now, what are the green card eligibility categories? Today we will look at each of them so that you can determine your eligibility and obtain permanent residency.

Please note that each of the green card eligibility categories has its own application process and deadline. Therefore, it is best to seek professional legal advice to deal with your case. At Urbina Immigration Law we can help you. Contact us and take the first step towards permanent residency.

What does the category on the green card mean?

Green card eligibility categories refer to the various situations in which certain individuals may apply to become permanent residents of the United States. These are based on:

  • Employment.
  • Marriage and Family.
  • Asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Visa Lottery.
  • Special Immigrant Status.

Employment-Based Green Cards

The first of the green card eligibility categories are employment-based green cards. In this case, it is residency based on EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas for first, second, and third-preference workers respectively.

Certain classes of foreign workers may apply for permanent residency.
Certain classes of foreign workers may apply for permanent residency.

Please note that each of these subcategories has its own processes and eligibility requirements. Therefore, it is best to seek advice from an attorney to choose the right category for your case. At Urbina Immigration Law we can help you. Tell us your case and take the first step towards your green card.

EB-1: First Preference Workers

This subcategory includes employees with extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business, athletics, etc. In addition, certain officers and executives of U.S.-based international organizations are included. who must relocate to the country ( L-1 visa holders). 

In the following table you will find the categories and persons eligible to apply for a green card through the EB-1 first preference:

First Preference Workers
Category Eligible Persons
E10Children of First Preference Workers classified as E11, E16, E12, E17, E13, or E18.
E11Foreigners with extraordinary abilities.
E12Exceptional Professors or Researchers
E13Multinational executives or managers
E14Spouses of First Preference Workers classified as E11, E16, E12, E17, E13 or E18
E15Children of First Preference Workers classified as E11, E16, E12, E17, E13, or E18
E16Aliens with Extraordinary Ability (adjustment of status).
E17Exceptional professors or researchers (adjustment of status)
E18Multinational executives or managers (adjustment of status)
E19Spouses of First Preference Workers classified as E11, E16, E12, E17, E13 or E18 (adjustment of status).

EB-2: Second Preference Workers

This second subcategory of employment-based green cards is for scientists, artists and business professionals with advanced degrees, such as a doctorate or college degree. 

In the following table you will find the categories and persons eligible to apply for a green card through the EB-2 second preference:

Second Preference Workers
Category Eligible Persons
E21Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability.
E22Spouse of Aliens Classified as E21 or E26.
E23Children of foreigners classified as E21 or E26.
E26Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability (adjustment of status).
E27Spouses of Aliens Classified as E21 or E26 (adjustment of status).
E28Children of Aliens classified as E21 or E26 (adjustment of status).
E30Children of skilled or professional workers classified as E31, E36, E32 or E37.

EB-3: Third Preference Workers

EB-3 visas are visas for migrants who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or who have two years of experience or are exceptionally skilled workers. However, certain unskilled workers may fall under this category. 

In the following table you will find the categories and persons eligible for the green card through the EB-3 third preference:

Third Preference Workers
Category Eligible Persons
E31Foreigners who qualify for skilled jobs
E32Qualified professional with a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree or who is a member of a profession.
E34Spouses of third preference workers classified as E31, E36, E32 or E37.
E35Children of third preference workers classified as E31, E36, E32 or E37.
E36Foreign national who is a skilled worker or exceptionally talented.
E37Professional with a baccalaureate degree or who is a member of a profession
E39Spouses of third preference workers with talent or qualified professional classified as E31, E36, E32 or E37.
EW0Children of workers classified as EW3 or EW8.
EW3Worker performing unskilled work for which skilled workers are not available in the United States.
EW4Spouse of workers classified as EW3 or EW8.

Green Cards based on Special Immigrant Status

Another category of green card eligibility is based on the different classes of special immigrant status. The following persons may apply for a green card through this category:

Please note that the process for obtaining a green card through this status may vary depending on multiple factors. Therefore, it is best to seek the advice of an immigration attorney to help you through every step of the process. At Urbina Immigration Law we are here for you. Talk to a lawyer and get your green card.

Green Cards based on Marriage and Family

The third of the green card eligibility categories is based on marriage and family. In these cases, they are immediate family members (spouses, unmarried children, parents, and siblings) of U.S. citizens or residents who can sponsor their Green Card.

In this case, the green card eligibility categories are listed in the table below:

PreferenceEligible Family Members
First Preference (F1)Children (unmarried and over 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens.
Second Preference A (F2A)Spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents.
Second Preference B (F2B)Children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents.
Third Preference (F3)Married children of U.S. citizens.
Fourth Preference (F4)Siblings of U.S. citizens (if the latter is over 21 years of age).

Eligibility requirements for Marriage and Family based Green Cards

Although any citizen or legal resident may apply for a green card for their immediate family members, there are certain conditions that must be met. In the following table you will find the eligibility requirements for family members and their sponsors:

Sponsor Requirements (Citizen or Resident)Requirements for Sponsor  (Foreign Family Member)
Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.Be a relative of a U.S. citizen or resident.
Provide proof of U.S. residency/citizenship.Complete Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).
Complete Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).Demonstrate that it will not be a public burden or dependent on the State.
Receive annual income at least 125% above the state poverty line.Demonstrate relationship to the sponsor.
Demonstrate that you can financially support your family members and that they will not be a public charge.Demonstrate that your sponsor has sufficient income to support all sponsored family members.
Demonstrate the existence of a family relationship with the immigrant.

The family petition process can be complex. Therefore, it is best to have a family immigration lawyer help you understand your legal options. At Urbina Immigration Law we are here for you. Talk to a lawyer and take the first step to reunite with the people you love.

Green Cards based on Asylee/Refugee Status

Although this is one of the most difficult green card eligibility categories to obtain and has undergone multiple changes, green card petitions based on Asylee/Refugee status are an option for obtaining residency.

This category is available for those who enter the U.S. legally or illegally and who face civil unrest, death, starvation, fear of persecution, torture or war in their home country. However, some victims of qualifying crimes (such as human trafficking) may also be able to obtain a renewable green card.

Visa Lottery

Finally, another green card eligibility category is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery, it allocates some 50,000 green cards to low-immigration countries in the United States each year.

You may qualify for a green card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
You may qualify for a green card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

From October to November, a computer-generated system randomly selects applicants for Diversity Visas. Those who are drawn by lot can then apply for permanent residency.

What are the processing times for the green card eligibility categories?

The processing times for a green card application vary depending on the preference category, the type of visa and the limit of green cards per country. Therefore, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney to keep you abreast of the waiting times for your case.

Is it possible to change the eligibility categories for approved green cards?

Yes, if you change jobs you may file an amendment to Form I-140. However, you can only do so if you remain with your current employer and there are only slight changes in your job title or job description.

How often should I renew my green card?

Under the law, a green card holder must submit a renewal application every ten years. You must renew your green card at any of these times:
– Your green card is about to expire.
– More than 6 months have not yet passed since the expiration date of your green card.
– You must apply for removal of conditions before your conditional residency (valid for 2 years) expires.

Can I file several green card applications at the same time?

Yes, you can file more than one green card application at a time, for example, if you wish to file applications in more than one employment category at the same time. However, this is not entirely advisable since, if you are denied a previous application, this could jeopardize your future applications.

What is the difference between residency and citizenship?

The main difference between residency and citizenship lies in the rights and obligations granted. Citizens have full access to all rights and obligations established by the Constitution. In contrast, permanent residents have limited privileges, such as the ability to live and work legally in the country.

As we have seen above, since there are many paths to permanent residency, it is very difficult to find a universal process for obtaining a green card. This changes depending on the green card eligibility categories, which can be confusing for any migrant wishing to apply.

Therefore, the importance of the advice of an immigration attorney is essential for the success of the process. He can help you navigate through the complexities of your case, accompanying you every step of the way. At Urbina Immigration Law we can assist you. Contact us today and take the first step towards your permanent status.

Sources

USCIS – Permanent Residency Processes and Procedures

USCIS – I-130, Petition for Alien Relative Petition

USCIS – Permanent Residency for Family-Based Immigrants

Other Resources

How to obtain a Green Card in the United States – Updated Guide

What is the difference between Green Card and citizenship?

Permanent Residence for Victims of Violence or Crimes

Renewal of permanent residency in the United States: steps and documentation

How to apply for American residency by family petition, step by step

What are the requirements for family reunification in the United States?

Green card by marriage in the United States, in detail

Documents required for the Green Card process by marriage

Juvenile Visa (SIJS) Approved: What’s next? Find out everything you need to know

Family Reunification Parole in the United States: A Complete Guide

Form I-130: Everything you need to know

Form I-130 Approved: How to Move Forward in the Family Petition Process

Form DS 260: The essential step for your immigrant visa