How do I obtain a green card in Colorado?

There are two main ways to secure a green card in Colorado: through family, or through employment.

Every year, people in Colorado apply to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in just the first quarter of fiscal year 2017, 289,000 applicants secured their green card.

The process may be long and even frustrating. However, knowing what to expect may make the transition a little easier. There are several ways to obtain a green card, and those are the following:

Green card through a relative

If the applicant has an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen, he or she may be able to use that relationship to secure a green card. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an immediate relative is defined as one of the following:

  • A spouse
  • A parent who is 21 or older
  • An unmarried child who is younger than 21

Simply having a relative, obviously, is not enough. The person must fill out a number of forms and be physically present in the country to file that paperwork. An immigration officer must inspect and admit the person, who must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa.

Green card through employment

Employment-based immigrants may also qualify for a green card. The U.S. government uses a "preference-based" system for these applicants. For example, there are "priority workers" who have exceptional skills and are given first preference. These include executives, foreign nationals involved in science, art or education, and certain researchers or professors. Second preference is given to people with advanced degrees in certain areas, and third preference is given to skilled and other workers.

Many of the same eligibility requirements for family-based green cards are extended to employment-based green cards. Additionally, the employer must file a form on the applicant's behalf, and the job the person has must still exist or a similar job must be available.

Family members of someone who applies for employment-based legal permanent residence may be able to apply as a derivative applicant for a green card.

Other paths to a green card

Though family- and employment-based options are the most common, the U.S. government allows for several other ways to secure a green card. Refugees or people seeking asylum, or those who have suffered abuse and other crimes, may be eligible. There are other more specific laws that may only apply to a select few people, such as qualifying through the "diversity lottery" or people who would fall under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Potential challenges

There are several bars to an adjustment of status that someone may face in the application process. For example, violating immigration law may prohibit someone from receiving a green card. Someone with a communicable disease may be determined to be inadmissible, as may someone who has committed certain crimes such as drug violations or prostitution.

Though this all looks fairly simple on paper, the immigration process is anything but that. Making even the slightest mistake could have serious consequences on someone's application. People who have concerns about this matter should speak with an immigration attorney in Colorado.