A permanent residence card, also known as a permanent visa or green card, is a form of identification that permits a foreign national to permanently live and work in the United States. 

In order to prepare a strong case for obtaining a permanent visa or green card, you should first determine which category would most likely make you eligible to receive a green card. You can do this by visiting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) website and searching for the section entitled, “Green Card Eligibility Categories.”  

There are a number of different Green Card Eligibility Categories to choose from, such as getting a green card through a family member, through an employer, or as a special immigrant. In general, each main category is divided into specific subcategories that each have their own requirements. 

For example, if you are attempting to get a green card under the family category, a subcategory under this section provides that you may be eligible to apply as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen if you are:

  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen;
  • The parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age; or
  • An unmarried child of a U.S. citizen who is below the age of 21. 

Regardless of which Green Card Eligibility Category you believe is the right fit, you must be able to prove that you meet all of the requirements for the category you select. The majority of categories also require you to find a sponsor for a green card before you can apply. For instance, if you are getting a green card through an employer, your employer would be your sponsor. 

In sum, the best way to ensure that you have a strong case to receive a green card is by:

  • Complying with all U.S. immigration laws and requirements; 
  • Following the instructions listed under your category on the USCIS website; 
  • Making sure that you are in fact eligible to receive a green card;
  • Finding a sponsor for a green card and having that sponsor submit a petition for a green card on your behalf;
  • Ensuring that your application is complete and does not contain any mistakes or misinformation;
  • Proving that you are admissible to the United States (e.g., have not committed a crime, immigration violation, or concealed material information on your application); and
  • Providing solid evidence to help you build a case as to why you deserve to be approved for a permanent visa or green card.

Finally, you should strongly consider hiring a local immigration attorney to help you prepare your case for a green card. Immigration attorneys who are experienced in handling permanent visas or green card applications know how to build a strong case. Thus, they can make sure that you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes when preparing your case.

What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Gather Before I Meet with My Permanent Visa or Green Card Lawyer? 

There are many kinds of documents that a green card applicant should collect to prepare for a meeting with their permanent visa or green card lawyer. Most of these documents can also be used to build a green card applicant’s case. It should be noted, however, that each Green Card Eligibility Category may require different or additional documents.

For example, if the applicant is applying through a sponsored employer, then they will need to provide proof of a job offer and acceptance. They will also need to provide documents that show they are still working for the sponsored employer. 

In general, some types of documents that a green card applicant may want to gather before meeting with their attorney include:

  • Two copies of identical, passport-style photographs;
  • A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate or other records that show their country of birth;
  • A copy of their passport;
  • All of the forms being submitted along with their application (preferably, completed);
  • Evidence of past crimes (e.g., documents pertaining to a criminal case if any); 
  • Government documents proving their current legal status;
  • Documents required for their sponsor (e.g., if obtaining green card through marriage, then a marriage certificate and their spouse’s government identification card);
  • Copies of medical examinations (if required); and
  • If any of the above documents are in another language, then translated copies of each of those documents.

A green card applicant may also want to prepare a list of questions that they have about their case or about green cards in general. This can make the meeting with their lawyer as well as the application process go much more smoothly. For example, if an applicant does not understand one of their application requirements or does not know which category they fall under, then they should ask their lawyer at the meeting.

What Makes a Strong or Weak Permanent Visa Case?  

Some items that can make a case for a permanent visa strong include:

  • Submitting strong and truthful evidence to support the case;
  • Choosing the right category when applying for a permanent visa;
  • Following all of the necessary requirements; and
  • Hiring an immigration lawyer and expert witnesses to help with the case.

Some issues that can make a case for a permanent visa weak include:

  • Providing falsified or misleading information on the application, during the interview, or to immigration officials when entering the country;
  • Failing to complete an application or making mistakes when filling out an application;
  • Not submitting strong enough evidence to satisfy permanent visa requirements or to justify receiving one; and
  • If applicable, not having a sponsor to submit a petition on one’s behalf.

What are Some Dos and Don’ts in Permanent Visa or Green Card Cases? 

If a person is not careful, they can easily lose or be denied access to the process of obtaining a permanent visa and/or green card. 

The following is a list of general rules and tips that a person should either do or should refrain from doing during the case for a permanent visa or green card:

  • Do comply with all instructions provided on the USCIS forms and any other relevant regulations;
  • Do contact a local USCIS office or lawyer for any questions or concerns, or if the party requires assistance with their matter;
  • Do hire a lawyer if the individual has been denied entry into the country, has been deported, convicted of a crime, or overstayed their visa;
  • Do request a translator if there is a language barrier;
  • Do complete all forms, submit any attachments, and be sure to follow the directions for the application and interview process perfectly;
  • Do keep the visa or green card received on their person at all times; and
  • Do not attempt to bring other non-U.S. citizens into the country illegally;
  • Do not forget to renew a permanent visa or green card before it expires;
  • Do not commit any degree of crimes; 
  • Do not participate in riots or other disruptive political activities;
  • Do not forge, create, alter, or misrepresent facts on any USCIS forms or applications;
  • Do not lie or make any other misrepresentations to USCIS officers during the interview;
  • Do not travel outside of the country for extended periods of time.

When Do I Absolutely Need a Permanent Visa or Green Card Attorney? 

Some green card issues are much harder to resolve than others. Whether you need the assistance of a permanent visa or green card attorney, however, will largely depend on the circumstances and how comfortable you feel in representing yourself. For example, while you do not necessarily need to hire an attorney to fill out a green card application, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer if you have been accused of committing green card fraud.

You will also likely need the services of an immigration lawyer if your situation involves one of the following reasons:

  • If you do not understand the requirements to obtain a green card or permanent visa; 
  • If your application for a visa or green card has been significantly delayed; 
  • If the USCIS deems that you are banned from entering the country; and/or  
  • If the USCIS deems that you are barred from getting a permanent visa or green card.

Immigration lawyers who specifically have experience in dealing with issues concerning green cards or permanent visas, can offer incredibly valuable services. For instance, if you intend on submitting an application for a green card, you should have a lawyer review the application beforehand to check for any inconsistencies with current immigration laws and for other errors.

In addition, you may need a green card attorney if there is a dispute over your status as an immigrant or with your green card application. Lastly, if you do not know which type of visa or green card you should apply for, an immigration attorney can offer guidance on the option that would work best based on the circumstances.