A green card gives foreigners "legal permanent resident" (LPR) status in the United States. Non-citizens who have green cards may live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, and eventually they may be able to become naturalized citizens. Immigrants in Nevada typically obtain LPR status through either (1) family-based sponsors or (2) work-based sponsors.
Below our Las Vegas green card attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about achieving legal permanent resident status in Nevada. Click on a question to go to that topic.
- 1. Can I get a green card?
- 2. How do I apply for a green card in Nevada?
- 3. How long does it take to get a green card?
- 4. How much does it cost to get a green card?
- 5. How long are green cards good for?
- 6. Will a criminal record prevent me from getting a green card?
There are several different ways that an individual can obtain a green card. The majority of individuals receive LPR status through sponsorship by (1) a family member, or (2) an employer located in the U.S. Others are granted this classification through refugee status or asylum. While sponsorship is typically required, the foreigner may be able to file on his/her own behalf in some special circumstances.
A foreigner may be eligible for legal permanent residence through family-based sponsorship if he/she is either of the following:
- An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. “Immediate relative” is defined as spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizen petitioners that are 21 or older.
- A family member of a U.S. citizen who fits into a particular preference category. These categories include: unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen petitioners that are 21 years of age or older.
- A family member of a current green card holder. This category includes spouses and unmarried children of the sponsoring green card holder.
- A member of another special category. This additional category includes, but is not limited, to battered spouses or children and any individual born to a foreign diplomat in the U.S.
Learn about how spousal visas can lead to LPR status in Nevada.
A foreigner may be eligible for legal permanent residence through the sponsorship of an employer or a future employer (based on a job offer of employment). The most common types of employer sponsorship is:
- Green card through a job offer. In most cases, the individual will need to have the potential employer submit a labor certification and also file a Form I-140 on his/her behalf. An I-140 form is also known as an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker form.
- Green card through investment. An individual may be eligible to receive a green card if she is an investor or entrepreneur who is making an investment in an enterprise that creates new jobs in the U.S. (Learn more about EB-5 visas.)
- Green card through self-petition. Under the right circumstances, a non-citizen may be able to file on her own behalf (“self-petition”). Typically this option is reserved for those who are considered to be “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability” or individuals who are recipients of a National Interest Waiver. (Learn more about EB-1 visas.)
- Green card through special categories of jobs. If the individual holds a job that is considered to be specialized by the U.S. government, she may receive a green card based on that position. The role could be a past or current position. Common jobs that fall into this category include: broadcasters and religious workers. (Learn more about EB-4 visas.)
Learn more about how employment visas can lead to LPR status in Nevada.
Some other ways to obtain legal permanent status in the U.S. include the diversity lottery and VAWA protection.
In general, a non-citizen may apply for a green card only after he/she gets an immigrant visa and "visa immigrant number." Then he/she can submit the I-485 Form to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to petition for legal permanent resident status.
Note that petitioning for LPR while the foreigner is in the U.S. is called "adjustment of status." Conversely, petitioning for LPR while the foreigner is not in the U.S. is called "consular processing." But the end result of consular processing and adjustment of status is the same--the foreigner getting a green card. Applicants can even switch between consular processing and adjustment of status if they move to or from the U.S. while the green card petition is pending.
Consular processing (applying for a green card while outside the U.S.) usually takes four to six months, and in some cases, employer sponsors can expedite the process to a matter of days. Adjustment of status (applying for a green card while in the U.S.) usually takes longer, often a year or more.
Most green cards have to be renewed after ten years. (Learn about green card renewal procedures.) Legal permanent residents may always lose their LPR status and be deported from the U.S. if they are ever convicted of certain deportable offenses. And note that green card-holders who need to leave the U.S. for emergency purposes may have trouble returning to the country unless they are approved for emergency travel first.
Recall that many legal permanent residents will eventually be eligible to become full-fledged U.S. citizens. Learn about naturalization in Nevada.
Applicants who committed low-level crimes such as a Nevada speeding ticket or the Nevada crime of trespass will probably still be able to get a green card. But several, more serious crimes bar foreigners from obtaining legal permanent residence. Some of these include:
- Crimes involving moral turpitude (with some exceptions)
- Nevada drug crimes (with some exceptions)
- multiple criminal convictions that result in a sentence of at least five years
Note that criminal records that have been sealed can still prevent a foreigner from getting a green card.
Call a Nevada immigration attorney...
If you or a loved one is seeking legal permanent residence in Nevada, our Las Vegas immigration attorneys can help. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a consultation on getting a green card.
Also see our article on getting green cards in California.