Know the main methods to get a green card

Different Ways to Get a Green Card

In the US, the permanent residence is called the Green Card. Permanent residence means you would have similar rights to that of a citizen. There are some limitations such as you cannot vote with holding permanent residence.  Different countries can have different names for permanent residence. It is still called a green card even though it is not green anymore. This term references to the past when it was green. You may be thinking to yourself, “How can I go about getting a green card?”

In total, there are about thirteen (13) ways to obtain the green card. However, the four main ways to obtain a green card:

  • Sponsorship through relatives living in the USA
  • Marriage
  • Employment
  • Lottery

The two easiest ways to enter the USA are through the sponsorship and employment. There are advantages and disadvantages to each category type that you select. The most obvious ones are either you reside with a relative or you gain a job and green card at the same time!

Let’s explore the other ways that you could get into the USA. There are nine (9) broad categories that the US

  • Asylum
  • Investors
  • Adoption
  • Registry
  • Diplomats
  • Private Bill
  • Refugee
  • Special Immigrants
  • Other categories

Just what do these categories mean and the associated eligibility criteria:

Type Eligibility Criteria
Asylum Holding asylum status for at least 1 year


Foreign entrepreneurs who invest:

·         $500,000 in a commercially viable enterprise that benefits US business and creates 5 US based jobs

·         $1,000,000 in a commercially viable enterprise that benefits US business and creates 10 US based jobs



Minor under sixteen (16) years of age adopted by US citizens or green card holders


A person who has resided continuously in the US since 1 January 1972


Diplomats serving their country in the US who are no longer able to return to their home country and meet other legal criteria


Holding refugee status for at least 1 year
Special Immigrants


·         Religious Worker

·         Special Immigrant Juvenile

·         Media Broadcaster from abroad coming to work in the US

·         Former employees of US Government

·         Former employees in US consulate in Hong Kong

·         Spouse of SN-1 Visa holder

·         Retired NATO-6 civilian

·         Native American Indian born in Canada

·         Spouse of BC-1 Holder

·         Child of BC-1 Holder

Human Trafficking victim or Crime victim ·         Human trafficking: Holder of T non-immigrant visa

·         Crime victim: Holder of U non-immigrant visa


Other categories ·         Cuban Adjustment Act

·         Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)

·         Lautenberg parolee

·         Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act


Some of these categories are rather unusual, nevertheless they do exist. It’s important to distinguish and explain what some of these terms mean. The first one is understanding the difference between asylum and refugee. They are quite similar with a subtle yet distinct difference.

Difference between Asylum vs Refugee:

Generally, an asylum seeker is someone who has left their country and their status has not been decided by the country in which the application has been made. A refugee has left their country with legitimate fear from war and conflict with no possibility of returning.  Internationally, countries are obligated under the 1951 International Refugee Convention to accept refugees and provide them accommodation and care.

In the US, the difference is largely a procedural one. A refugee submits their application from abroad, then given permission to enter the US. An asylee resides in the US and tries to claim status while already there.


They are people who have been given special legal status to represent their countries abroad. Often, they have a special diplomatic status including diplomatic passports. Such passports confer them with unique rights. The US permits a Diplomat to reside in the US and apply for a green card if they meet certain legal criteria and justify their inability to return home.

Native American: Someone who is from one of the various tribes within the US.

It is very important to study the eligibility criteria carefully when selecting and deciding which category most applies to you. Sometimes consulting a lawyer can help you understand better. It could be that these applications are complex and require a specialised lawyer to explain and file correctly the documentation. You should ensure to file the applications correctly and meet all requirements to avoid rejection and re-application fees.


Adam E. Badenhorst studied a MBA, and has professional experience in marketing and managing teams. Currently, he focuses most of his work on personal branding and small business topics. Recently, he has diversified his portfolio to include education topics. In his free time, he enjoys studying a new language, playing sports, and spending time with his family.

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