Getting a U.S. Green Card
Having a Green Card or a Permanent Resident Card allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation but most are acquired through family sponsorship, marriage, employment, or a business investment.
Permanent Resident Green Card
The U.S. Permanent Resident Green Card is one of the most coveted documents in the world. It allows a foreign citizen to live and work in the United States with little restriction and with almost all of the benefits of a U.S. citizen. Canadians may obtain green cards through family sponsorship, marriage, employment, or a business investment.
Top 4 Ways Canadians Can Acquire a U.S. Green Card
Family Green Card
Canadian citizens with relatives who are U.S. citizens may be able to obtain a green card if certain and specific relationships exist. Different categories of relatives dictate whether, and how soon, you can get a green card.
One category is known as “immediate relatives,” which includes: 1) spouses of U.S. citizens; 2) parents of U.S. citizens who are over 21; and 3) children of U.S. citizens who are under 21. Any Canadian citizen who falls under one of these categories are immediately eligible for a green card without having to wait for an immigrant visa to become available based on a priority date. Assuming that the application process goes smoothly, a Canadian citizen can anticipate receiving a green card within one year of filing the application.
If you do not fall into one of the “immediate relative” categories, do not despair. There are other categories known as “family preference categories” which may still allow a relative to petition for a green card on your behalf. These relationships include: 1) unmarried sons or daughters (over 21) of U.S. citizens; 2) married children of U.S. citizens who are of any age; 3) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who are over 21; and 4) spouses or children of U.S. green card holders. Unfortunately, individuals born in Canada seeking a green card under a family preference category will have to wait several years before a visa becomes available. If you are looking to obtain a green card through this route, you may want to explore other options – including marriage to a U.S. citizen, investing in an EB-5 green card, or obtaining a green card through employment.
Marriage Green Card
A Canadian citizen who has married a U.S. citizen is generally entitled to apply for permanent residency. This process is known as “adjustment of status,” and it requires the cooperation of both the U.S. citizen as well as the Canadian citizen spouse.
The U.S. citizen spouse will file a form known as “Petition for Alien Relative” with the USCIS, petitioning for the Canadian spouse to become a U.S. permanent resident. As part of the petition, the U.S. citizen will also have to sign an affidavit of support, declaring that he/she will be financially able to support the Canadian citizen and that he/she will not be a public charge. In other words, the U.S. citizen spouse is declaring that he/she can support his/her spouse so that the spouse does not become a burden to society by way of collecting unemployment insurance etc.
The Canadian citizen spouse may concurrently file a form known as an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, seeking to change the Canadian’s current immigration status to that of a permanent resident. Depending on the Canadian’s situation, he/she may also apply for a temporary work permit or a temporary travel permit. These are optional, and should only be sought if the Canadian citizen is not currently on a valid work visa or anticipates that the work visa will expire before the green card is approved. The Canadian citizen will also have to get fingerprinted and undergo a medical examination by a designated civil surgeon to ensure that he/she is healthy – again, so as not to become a public charge.
Employment Green Card
You can apply for a green card (permanent residence) based on the fact that you have a permanent employment opportunity in the United States, or if an employer that wants to sponsor you for a green card based on permanent employment in the United States. Canadian citizens who are working for a US employer on a valid work visa may adjust their status to a permanent resident if the employer files an employment-based petition.
The wait time for employment-based green card petitions are based on “priority dates.” This is a method of cross-referencing a beneficiary’s country of birth and the employment-based category to determine whether a visa is currently available and, if not, how long the wait is. An individual born in Canada seeking an employment-based green card is generally in a better position compared to citizens of other countries, such as China, India, Mexico or the Philippines. This is because the priority dates for those born in Canada under an EB-1 and EB-2 visas are all “current.” This means that a visa is available for them immediately and that their petitions will not be backlogged.
Investor Green Card
Entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) who make an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and who plan to create or preserve ten permanent full time jobs for qualified United States workers, are eligible to apply for a green card.
Up to 10,000 visas may be authorized each fiscal year for eligible entrepreneurs.
You must invest $1,000,000, or at least $500,000 in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural area). In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to the individual.