If you eventually want to gain citizenship in the United States, you should start by getting a Permanent Resident Card, often called "Green Cards." A Green Card will allow you to live and work permanently in the U.S., but you must apply for one. Permanent residents can then apply for citizenship after five years—or at least three if you marry a U.S. Citizen. Here are steps to help you get started in this journey.
Consult with an Immigration Attorney
An immigration lawyer will be a valuable asset in your journey. He or she can navigate the legalese and improve your chances of approval. Your attorney will acquaint you with the two main forms you'll need to fill out: the Green Card application (Form I-485) and an immigrant petition. The petition form often comes from a sponsor or from someone who will vouch for you—such as a prospective employer or relative.
Look Over Your Green Card Eligibility Options
While your lawyer can help you fill out your application, you'll need to figure out which eligibility category you fall into. For instance, you could get an employment-based Green Card. If your plan on working in the U.S., you will obviously need permanent residency. Within the employment category, there are subcategories, such as Employment First Preference, Employment Second Preference, and Employment Third Preference. As you can imagine, First-preference applicants are very skilled workers with advanced degrees, so they may have an easier time getting a green card for work than a lesser preference.
Not planning on working? You can also apply for a Green Card if you
are married to a U.S. citizen
are escaping abuse or human trafficking
are a refugee seeking asylum
are a special immigrant (e.g. religious worker, armed force member, etc.)
Still don't fall into a category? Not to worry; you may still be eligible for a Green Card. Your lawyer can help you self-petition or find someone to sponsor your application.
Practice Interview Questions with Your Lawyer
Before you get your Green Card, you'll need to interview in person with someone from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This kind of interview can be nerve-racking—especially if you are being interviewed about a marriage-based Green Card. For instance, the USCIS representative may ask you personal questions about your courtship, your joint finances, your daily routine, etc. While these questions may seem invasive, they have to be asked to make sure that the marriage is legitimate and not used as a loophole to immigration. You don't want to be blindsided by certain questions, so make sure you do a practice interview with your lawyer beforehand.
Contact a firm, like DiMaria Law, for more help.