US Green Card and Citizenship

How to Become a US Citizen

Under current U.S. immigration law, there is no one single path to U.S. citizenship. Instead, there are several channels to permanent residency – commonly referred to as “Green Card,” that eventually can lead to U.S. citizenship. 

Before any person has the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen, they must first obtain legal permanent residency status. There are two main paths to obtain U.S. lawful permanent residency: one is through a family member (spouse, child, parent), and the other is through employment (EB).

Green Card - Family Based

The process of applying for green-card for a relative starts when the US citizen or lawful permanent resident in the US submits a visa petition to the USCIS. If the visa petition is approved, it creates a priority date, a place in line, for the relative and his or her family, to immigrate to the US.

Only after obtaining the green card and spending at least 5 years in the US as a lawful permanent resident are you able to apply for US citizenship.

Green Card - Employment Based

The process of applying for green-card starts when the US Employer (Sponsor) submits a visa petition to the USCIS. If the visa petition is approved by the USCIS, it creates a priority date, a place in line, for the employee, and his or her family, to immigrate to the US. Only after obtaining the green card and spending 5 years in the US as a lawful permanent resident are you able to apply for US citizenship.

Steps Towards Citizenship - Family Based

Applicant EligibilityProcessing TimeEssential DocumentDuration of stay requiered
Spouse of a U.S. citizen None*Marriage Certificate3 years
Spouse of a Permanent Resident None*Marriage Certificate5 years
Unmarried child (under the age of 21) of a U.S. citizen NoneBirth Certificate5 years
Unmarried son or daughter (21 years of age or older) of a U.S. citizen 5 years*Birth Certificate5 years
Unmarried son or daughter (21 years of age or older) of a lawful permanent resident 5 years* 5 Years*5 years
Married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen 10-12 years*Birth Certificate5 years
Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age NoneBirth Certificate of the US citizen child5 years
Widow or widower of a U.S. citizen married to his/her U.S. citizen spouse at the time of deathNoneMarriage certificate and death certificate5 years
Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age15 Years*Birth certificate5 years

Steps Towards Citizenship - Employment Based

Employee EligibilityEmployer EligibilityDuration of Stay Required
Extraordinary Ability (EB-1) Demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim May not be applicable as no employer needed.5 years
Outstanding Professors and Researchers (EB-1) International recognition for outstanding achievements in your academic field. At least 3 years experience in teaching or research in that academic area. University, institution of higher education, or private organization. An offer of employment for teaching or research position. 5 years
Multinational Managers and Executives (EB-1) You must have been employed abroad as a manager or executive for at least 1 year in the 3 years preceding submission of the petition .or entry to the U.S. “Qualifying relationship” as parent, subsidiary, affiliate, branch between the foreign employer and US petitioner. Doing business for at least 1 year. An offer of employment for a managerial or executive capacity. 5 years
Professionals holding an advanced degree or its equivalent (EB-2) Possess MA degree or a BA plus 5 years of post-BA, progressive work experience in the field; Meet the requirements for the position specified in the labor certificate. An offer of employment A good faith effort to recruit a US employee for the position (according to the requirements of the labor certification). 5 years
Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts, or Business (EB-2) Exceptional ability (a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinary) in the sciences, arts, or business which will benefit the U.S. economy. Waive the labor certificate requirement as being in the “national interest” An offer of employment; A good faith effort to recruit a US employee for the position (according to the requirements of labor certification) unless proven to be in the “National Interest” 5 years
Skilled Workers (EB-3) Possess at least 2 years of job experience, education, or training Meet the job requirements specified in the labor certificate. Show there are no qualified US workers. An offer of employment A good faith effort to recruit a US employee for the position (according to the labor certification) 5 years
Professionals (EB-3) Possess a BA degree related to the position; Meet any other requirements specified in the labor certificate; Show there are no qualified US workers. An offer of employment A good faith effort to recruit a US employee for the position (according to the labor certification) 5 years
Religious Workers (EB-4) A member of a religious organization in the US for at least two years prior to filing. A non-profit, religious organization in the US Offer of employment for minister or other religious vocation/ occupation 5 years
Immigrant Investors (EB-5) Invested $1.8 million or $900,000 in targeted employment areas, in a new commercial business that will benefit the U.S. economy and create at least 10 full-time positions for qualifying employees N/A5 years
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