A Permanent Resident Card is more commonly known as a “green card.” The card is issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to all permanent residents as proof that they are authorized to live and work in the United States. For most immigrants, obtaining a green card is the first step towards becoming an American citizen. Many applicants for green cards are sponsored by family members or employers in the United States, but certain other types of immigrants can also be eligible for green cards in limited circumstances, including immediate relatives. It is important to understand one’s preference category.
If you or a loved one are applying for a Permanent Resident Card in Harris County, it is in your best interest to retain legal counsel before filing any paperwork. Our immigration lawyers in Houston help immigrants from many different countries successfully navigate the green card process. You can have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call (832) 530-4070 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Green Cards in Texas
- Green Card Eligibility Categories
- Green Card Application Process and Rights
- Harris County Green Card Resources
Green Card Eligibility Categories
In order to obtain a green card, an applicant must be eligible under one of a number of different categories. For example, an immigrant may be able to apply as one of the following if he or she satisfies the necessary definitions:
Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
If he or she is the spouse of a U.S. citizen, an unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen, or the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old;
Other relative of a U.S. citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under the family-based preference categories
If he or she is a family member of a U.S. citizen, meaning the unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you are 21 years old or older, married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old; or the family member of a lawful permanent resident, meaning the spouse of a lawful permanent resident, unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident, or unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident 21 years old or older;
Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or the fiancé(e)’s child
If he or she is admitted to the U.S. as a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or admitted to the U.S. as the child of a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen;
Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen
If he or she is the widow or widower of a U.S. citizen and you were married to your U.S. citizen spouse at the time your spouse died; and
Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) self-petitioner
If he or she is the abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, abused child (unmarried and under 21 years old) of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or abused parent of a U.S. citizen.
Employment Green Cards
Green cards through employment are also available depending on an immigrant’s preference:
- First preference immigrant workers have extraordinary ability 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 immigrant workers are members of professions that require advanced degrees; have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business; or are seeking a national interest waiver; and
- Third preference immigrant workers are skilled workers (meaning their jobs require a minimum of two years training or work experience); professionals (meaning their jobs require at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession); or unskilled workers (meaning they will perform unskilled labor requiring less than two years training or experience).
Two other employment green cards include the Physician National Interest Waiver if an applicant is a physician who agrees to work full-time in clinical practice in a designated underserved area for a set period of time and also meets other eligibility requirements, and the Immigrant Investor, if the applicant has invested or is actively in the process of investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted employment area,) in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. which will create full-time positions for at least 10 qualifying employees.
Other Green Card Categories
Some of the other special immigrant categories for which immigrants may be eligible for green cards include:
- Religious worker
- Special Immigrant Juvenile
- Afghanistan or Iraq national
- Employee of an international organization or family member or NATO-6 employee or family member
- Human trafficking victim
- Crime victim
- VAWA self-petitioner (victim of battery or extreme cruelty)
- Special Immigrant Juvenile
- An abused (victim of battery or extreme cruelty) spouse or child under the Cuban Adjustment Act
- An abused (victim of battery or extreme cruelty) spouse or child under Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA)
Green cards are also made available through the following categories:
- Diversity Immigrant Visa Program — If the immigrant was selected for a diversity visa in the Department of State’s diversity visa lottery;
- Cuban Adjustment Act — If the immigrant is a Cuban native or citizen or the spouse or child of a Cuban native or citizen;
- An abused (victim of battery or extreme cruelty) spouse or child under the Cuban Adjustment Act — If the immigrant is the abused spouse or child of a Cuban native or citizen;
- Dependent status under the HRIFA — If the immigrant is the spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident who received his or her Green Card based on the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA);
- An abused (victim of battery or extreme cruelty) spouse or child under HRIFA — If the immigrant is the abused spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident who received his or her Green Card based on HRIFA;
- Lautenberg parolee — If the immigrant was paroled into the U.S. as a Lautenberg parolee;
- Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act of 2000 — If the immigrant is a native or citizen of Vietnam, Kampuchea (Cambodia), or Laos who was paroled into the U.S. on or before Oct. 1, 1997 from Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program, a refugee camp in East Asia, or a displaced person camp administered by UNHCR in Thailand;
- American Indian born in Canada — If the immigrant has 50 percent or more of blood of the American Indian race and were born in Canada;
- Person born in the United States to a foreign diplomat — If the immigrant was born in the United States to a foreign diplomatic officer who was stationed in the U.S. when he or she was born;
- Section 13 (diplomat) — If the immigrant is stationed in the United States as a foreign diplomat or high ranking official and is unable to return home.
Green Card Application Process and Rights
The green card application process can vary depending on certain factors. For example, an immigrant currently outside the United States will need to apply through Consular processing with the U.S. State Department.
An immigrant within the United States who already has an approved immigrant petition can file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS when an immigrant visa is available. An immigrant in the United States who does not have an approved immigrant petition must check the eligibility requirements for his or her Green Card category to see if he or she can file the petition and the Form I‑485 together at the same time (also known as concurrent filing).
In general, the green card process typically begins with a family member or employer filing an immigrant petition. After USCIS approves the petition and a visa becomes available, the immigrant files a green card application with USCIS. The immigrant then goes to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature before attending an interview. The immigrant will then receive a decision on his or her application.
A green card provides an immigrant with the right to permanently work and live in the United States, sponsor other relatives seeking green cards, and the ability to seek U.S. citizenship. Green card holders, however, cannot vote in federal elections and are not immediately eligible for certain public benefits.
Harris County Green Card Resources
Texas – Houston Field Office | USCIS — The USCIS Houston Field Office serves 30 counties in the greater Houston area. In order to visit this office or to speak with an immigration services officer, you are required to have an appointment scheduled by USCIS or schedule an InfoPass appointment. You can file a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, online through the USCIS website.
USCIS Houston Field Office
810 Gears Rd., Suite 100
Houston, TX 77067
Diversity Visa Program Statistics | State Department’s travel website — The U.S. Department of State annually administers the Congressionally-mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, more commonly referred to as the green card lottery. The DV Program is the first step in pursuing a diversity immigrant visa, a visa provided to a class of immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Visit this section of the State Department website to view DV Program statistics such as the number of online entries received during each registration period, number of selected entrants for recent dv programs, and number of visa issuances and adjustments of status in the diversity immigrant category.
Contact a Houston, TX Immigration Attorney
Are you or your loved one seeking a green card in Southeast Texas? You will want to immediately contact The Gonzalez Law Group. Our Houston immigration attorneys help individuals in the greater Harris County area including Pearland, Baytown, Seabrook, La Porte, Pasadena, Galena Park, Friendswood and many others. Call (832) 530-4070 or submit an online contact form to have our lawyers review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free, confidential consultation.