Green Card Legal Information


Family lawyers deal with variety of different issues within the law.  Despite dealing with bankruptcy law (see Bankruptcy Lawyers), family lawyers practice the part of the law including adoptions, name changes, marriage, prenuptial agreements, immigration, and green cards.  Because a family lawyer can be involved in so many different areas of the law, it is important to employ a family lawyer who has background experience related to your law issues.


A person who is granted a green card is a permanent resident of the United States.  They have the right to enter and leave, work, and live in the United States for their entire lives.


  1. Immediate relatives of United States citizens qualify to get green cards.  These relatives include spouses, parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, and siblings.  There are certain restrictions associated with each of the preceding relatives and a lawyer should be consulted if you have a relative who is considering trying to obtain a green card.
  2. Preferred employees and workers may qualify for green cards.  There are a certain number of green cards given each year to people who have job skills that are needed in the United States.  Often, a job offer is required and the employer must show that they have tried to hire a U.S. citizen for the job and have been unsuccessful.
  3. Green card lotteries for ethnic diversity.  A certain number of green cards are reserved each year for citizens of countries who send the fewest immigrants to the U.S.
  4. Special immigrants are given green cards based on laws that have been passed.  These immigrants include clergy people, foreign medical graduates who have been in the U.S. since 1978, former employees of the Panama Canal Zone, retired officers or employees from certain international organizations, foreign employees of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong, international broadcasting employees, certain members of the U.S. armed forces, and foreign children declared dependent by juvenile courts.  If you fall under one of the “special immigrant” categories and want to obtain a green card you should consult an experienced lawyer.
  5. People seeking refuge and political asylum.  The U.S. will grant green cards to foreign individuals who are persecuted in their home country.  Persecution must be a result of a person’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or member ship in a social group.  Random violence or poverty does not qualify as persecution.
  6. Long-term illegal residents may qualify for a green card.  Certain people may be allowed to apply for a green card after they have lived illegally in the U.S. for ten years.  In order to apply for a green card the spouse and children of the illegal immigrant must be U.S. citizens and face an unusual hardship if that person was deported to their home country.  In this case a lawyer should be consulted right away.


  1. In order to obtain a green card you must have a “petitioner” begin the process for you.  This person can be your spouse or fiancé, a family member, or employer.  The first step they must take is to file a form called a “visa petition.”  By using this form the petitioner can describe your relationship with them and your desire to obtain a green card.  This process should be completed before you enter the United States.  The green card process can then continue through the U.S. consulate in your home country or through a U.S. based office.
  2. Once approved, your visa petition now serves as your “place in line” or “priority date” for obtaining your green card.
  3. This step in the process will depend upon several factors.  These include current living situation, who your “petitioner” is, whether you are married or unmarried, etc.  The help of an experienced lawyer will make this process as simple and as quick as possible.


Depending on the type of service your family/immigration lawyer provides, they may charge a flat fee or they may charge an hourly fee.  It is important when you first speak with a family/immigration lawyer that you find out how much they charge and by what method they calculate their fee.  Find out if the lawyer requires an initial retainer.  This is money paid to your lawyer up front in case you can’t pay the hourly fee later on.  If they do require a retainer, how much is it?  Keep in mind that complex immigration issues will cost more money than simple ones.  You should always inform your lawyer you want to keep your costs to a reasonable minimum and you would like them to help you do so.