A Green Card is a permanent residence permit for the USA granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). People with a Green Card have permission to live and work in the United States. Travellers who do not wish to emigrate to the US but are only travelling to the country for a holiday or business trip, do not need to apply for a Green Card. They can easily travel to the United States with an ESTA or a visa.
Who qualifies for a Green Card?
US Green Cards can be granted to, among others, family members of people with American nationality, people emigrating to the USA for work, and asylum seekers. Family members can be direct relatives of US citizens, such as children, parents of children under the age of 21 and spouses, as well as relatives of people with a US Green Card and fiancées of US citizens.
There are three categories of Green Cards granted on the basis of employment. The first category (first preference immigrant workers) consists of people with extraordinary skills, professors, researchers and managers of certain multinationals. The second category (second preference immigrant workers) is made up of people with jobs requiring a high level of education, people with exceptional skills and people travelling in the countryʼs national interest. The third category (third preference immigrant workers) is made up of people who have received training of at least 2 years or who have at least 2 years of work experience, people in positions requiring a bachelorʼs degree and unskilled workers. In addition, doctors, people who have invested large sums of money in the United States, religious workers, employees of international organisations (such as NATO), refugees, asylum seekers and victims of abuse may also be eligible for a Green Card.
How can you apply for a Green Card?
The US Green Card is applied for in two steps. First, an immigrant petition must be submitted and then the Green Card application form must be completed. The immigration petition generally has to be submitted by another person, also called a sponsor. Examples of sponsors who can submit the petition are family members with American nationality or employers in the USA. In certain cases, it is also possible to submit the application yourself or to submit the Green Card application form at the same time as the immigration petition.
Once the immigration petition has been approved, the Green Card application can be submitted. People who are already in the USA can apply for a Green Card at USCIS using the I-485 form. An appointment should then be made at an Application Support Center, where biometric data such as fingerprints, photographs and signatures will be taken. In some cases an interview may be necessary, in which additional questions relating to the application form must be answered. Individuals who are not yet in the United States should submit their application to the US embassy or consulate.
The Green Card Lottery
In addition to the application process mentioned above, it is also possible to win a US Green Card. The Electronic Diversity Visa Program is a programme set up by the US State Department to attract immigrants from certain countries to the USA. The aim of the lottery is to maintain cultural diversity in the United States. Each year, some 55,000 Green Cards are awarded to individuals from countries eligible to take part in the lottery (this includes most European countries). The registration period is usually from October to November, and participation is free of charge.
Green Card, visa or ESTA application?
Travellers who do not plan to permanently live in the USA, but are going there for a holiday or business trip do not have to apply for a Green Card or a visa. They can usually travel to the United States with an ESTA. The ESTA is applied for through an online application form. ESTA applications are generally approved within 3 days. An ESTA, unlike a visa or Green Card, does not require a personal interview at the embassy or consulate; the entire application process takes place online. Travellers will receive a confirmation by e-mail after the ESTA has been granted. This does not need to be printed, because the travel authorisation is automatically linked to the applicantʼs passport number.
Take note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.