Kolken & Kolken. Results-oriented immigration lawyers - specializing in Green Card, Deportation Cases and Temporary Visas.

Information on how to get a Green Card

Lawful Permanent Residency, commonly known as "Green Card" status, is a way for people who are not citizens of the United States (immigrants) to live and work in the country while enjoying virtually all of the privileges of U.S. citizenship.   

You must go through a multi-step process to get your "Green Card". In most cases, USCIS must first approve an immigrant petition for you, usually filed by an employer or relative. Then, an immigrant visa number must be available to you, even if you are already in the United States. After that, if you are already in the United States, you may apply to adjust to permanent resident status (If you are outside the United States, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.)

Generally, there are five basic ways to obtain a “Green Card”:

  1. Sponsorship by a relative that resides in the United States who is either a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  2. Sponsorship by a United States employer through an offer of employment in the U.S.;
  3. Winning the "Green Card" Diversity Visa lottery;
  4. After being granted refugee status or through a grant of asylum due to persecution in one’s homeland; or
  5. Being a member of a special class of  people who the United States Government has decided to grant "Green Card" status to. 

Can my relative sponsor me for a Green Card?

If you have a relative who is a U.S. Citizen or who has a "Green Card" you may be eligible to obtain permanent status in the United States.

Our Family Immigration page has some helpful information about obtaining a Green Card through an offer of employment.

Can I get a Green Card through my employer? 

You or your relative may also be eligible to obtain a Green Card in the United States through an offer of permanent employment. A U.S. employer may sponsor a foreign-born employee for permanent residence. Typically, the employer must first demonstrate to the Department of Labor that there is no qualified U.S. worker available for the job for which an immigrant visa is being sought. 

Our Business Immigration page has some helpful information about obtaining a Green Card through an offer of employment. 

Is there any other way to get a Green Card? 

A person who seeks protection in the U.S. on the grounds that he or she faces persecution in their homeland may enter this country as a refugee. In order to be admitted to the U.S. as a refugee, the person must prove that he or she has a "well-founded fear of persecution" on the basis of at least one of the following internationally recognized grounds: race; religion; membership in a social group; political opinion; or national origin. 

See our Political Asylum page for more information regarding obtaining Asylum in the United States.

You may also win a Green Card by entering into the Diversity Visa lottery.


How long does it take to get a Green Card?

If you wish to immigrate as a relative of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, you must obtain an immigrant visa number based on the preference category in which you fall.

People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by USCIS.  An immigrant visa number will become immediately available.

The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens.

The U.S. Department of State's Visa Bulletin will tell you how long you will have to wait to apply for your Green Card depending on what preference category you fall into.  Remember, immediate relatives have no wait, and can apply for their Green Card immediately.

To discuss possible representation regarding obtaining a Green Card, or to refer cases involving an immigration matter, feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment to directly speak with one of the partners of the firm. 

Our direct number is (716) 854-1541.

  • Immigrate to Canada: If you are interested in obtaining the Canadian version of a "Green Card".
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