For Maryland families anxious about keeping noncitizen family members in the country, ever-changing immigration laws can make the process seem confusing and frustrating. But once a family member’s visa has expired and they go back to their native country, they may not be able to return for years.
One way of keeping loved ones in the country is through green card eligibility. Although the process is involved and green card holders must reapply periodically to retain their status, this is one avenue that can lead to eventual citizenship. Residents of Greenbelt and surrounding areas who have questions can examine their options as well as learn more about the requirements and deadlines for filing.
What a green card is and what it can do
A green card is also called a permanent resident card, and it allows noncitizens to legally live and travel within the United States. The main ways that an applicant can receive a green card are through the green card lottery or diversity visa program, through work, or through family.
There are many advantages to having a green card, including:
- S. residency and right to work in the country.
- Eligibility for Medicare benefits after five years.
- Access to university studies, federal grants and loans.
- No restrictions on obtaining commercial and business licenses.
- Application for citizenship after three to five years.
Family-based immigration categories
Of the two types of family-based immigration, the category for immediate family includes a spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age, or another immediate family member. This also includes an orphan from within the United States or from another country whose sponsor is a U.S. citizen who plans to adopt.
The second category, for more distant relatives, is for family preference immigrant visas. They fall into first family preferences:
- Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, including the unmarried children of these applicants.
- Minor children, spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents.
- Married children of U.S. citizens and their children.
- Adult siblings of U.S. citizens, including their children.
Finding a path to reunite family members in this country is a dream for millions of naturalized U.S. citizens. Learning about the process will help applicants achieve their goals without unnecessary delays from errors or missed deadlines during the process.