There are two major ways of becoming a U.S. green card holder. Outside of a few exceptions, you can either obtain a family-based or an employment-based green card. Every year, thousands of foreign nationals become lawful permanent residents in the United States through these two main channels.
However, the requirement of having a sponsoring relative or job offer from a U.S.-based employer or organization must be fulfilled for most of the available green card categories. Fortunately, for those who have neither of the two requirements, there are categories that allow people to self-petition for their green card without sponsorship.
Categories of Green Card Without Sponsorship
The following immigrant visa categories allow you to self-sponsor your green card application:
EB-1A Green Card
Also known as the first preference level for employment-based green cards, the EB-1A is an immigrant visa classification for individuals with extraordinary achievement in their professions. It covers a wide range of fields of human endeavor including science, arts, business, education, and athletics.
To qualify, you must demonstrate that you possess achievements that are not ordinarily obtained in your field. You must also show that your skills will benefit the United States by demonstrating that you intend to continue working in the same field after being granted the visa.
EB-1A green card self-petitioning applicants are required to have proof of significant achievements and contributions that are of national or international standard and duly recognized by other experts in their fields. This must be proven through evidentiary criteria.
EB-1A Evidentiary Criteria
If you have received any major internationally-recognized award such as an Oscar, Olympic Medal, or Pulitzer Prize, this can suffice as proof of extraordinary achievement. However, in the absence of such an award, the USCIS has provided ten other criteria out of which every applicant must meet three:
- Documentation of lesser internationally or nationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field
- Documentation of your membership of a prestigious association in the field. The membership of such an association must require outstanding achievement for membership and must be granted by recognized experts in the field.
- Published material in major media or trade publications covering your work in the field. The publication must include the date, title, and author’s name.
- Evidence that you have judged the works of others in the field either as a member of a panel or individually
- Evidence that you have authored scholarly articles in your fields. These articles must be published in major trade publications.
- Evidence of your original significant scholarly, athletic, artistic, or business-related contributions to the field
- Evidence that your work in the field has been displayed at major artistic showcases or exhibition
- Evidence that you have performed a critical or leading role in reputable organizations in your field
- Evidence that you command a high salary in comparison to other professionals in the field
- Evidence of your media successes in the performing arts
EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) Visa
A National Interest Waiver is an exclusive option under the second preference employment-based green card category. The EB-2, like most other work visas, requires a job offer from a U.S. based employer under normal circumstances.
The employer is also required to get Labor Certification before they can process an employee’s immigration application and hire them. However, with an NIW, you can apply for the EB-2 green card by self-sponsoring your petition and also skip the labor certification process.
Requirements for Getting EB-2 National Interest Waiver
To qualify for a National Interest Waiver, you must show that you have exceptional ability and your employment in the United States would be of benefit to the country.
Your application must be submitted with evidence that can help convince the USCIS that it will be in the interest of the United States to waive the otherwise mandatory PERM Labor Certification and the job offer requirements for you. You must also show that you are the best person to advance your work in the United States.
Apart from this, you must also meet at least three of the following criteria:
- Present official academic record showing that you have a degree, certificate, diploma, or other recognized qualification from a higher institution of learning. The qualification must be related to your specific field.
- Letters documenting you have a minimum of ten years of full-time experience in the field
- A license or certificate to legally practice in the field
- Evidence that you commanded a high salary in comparison to others in the same profession.
- Evidence that you are a member of a professional association(s) in your field
- Recognition from government entities, your peers, professionals, or business organizations as proof of your contributions and achievements in the industry or profession
- If the above criteria are not readily available in your own case, you can provide comparable evidence with the help of an attorney.
How to Self-Sponsor EB-1A and EB-2 NIW Green Cards
The EB-1A and EB-2 NIW have the same general application steps. Once you are sure of your qualification for either of the categories, the next thing is to gather your credentials and apply using the following steps:
File an I-140
The I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers is the official immigration form used to request a work-based green card from the USCIS. It must be submitted with the above supporting evidence as applicable in each individual’s case. The processing time for adjustment of status application varies widely among applicants due to differences in priority dates. Once your petition is approved, you then move to the next step.
File an I-485: If You Are In the U.S.
If you are in the United States under a nonimmigrant visa status at the time of your I-140 approval, you will have the option to file an I-485 to adjust from your current status to a permanent resident status. Once the USCIS approves your I-485, you will officially become a lawful permanent resident in the U.S.
Consular Processing: If You Are Outside the U.S.
If you are outside the United States, you will need to undergo consular processing. Once your I-140 is approved, the USCIS will forward your case to a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence. Consular processing involves green visa interviews and verification of your eligibility. After a successful visa interview, you will receive an immigrant visa stamp on your passport. This will allow you to travel to the United States, and your physical green card will be mailed to your U.S. address within three to four weeks of your arrival.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Green Card
The EB-5 visa classification is another green card option that can be self-sponsored. Created by Congress in 1990 to boost the nation’s economy, the program has helped many foreign nationals who are willing and able to invest in the United States economy. Annually, up to 10,000 EB-5 visas are issued to applicants from different countries.
The minimum required EB-5 capital is $900,000 for an investment in a targeted employment area (TEA) and $1.8 million in a high-employment area. The main requirement is for the capital to create or preserve a minimum of ten U.S. jobs. All EB-5 capital must be invested in a commercial enterprise. A commercial enterprise can be any of the following:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability or general partnership
- Joint venture
- Holding company
- Business trust
- Or some other legal business entity which may be owned privately or publicly
EB-5 Green Card Process
There are five major steps for acquiring a U.S. green card through the EB-5 program.
Find an EB-5 Enterprise
The very first step is to locate a project that best suits your investment needs and preferences. This can be an existing company, starting a new company, or investing in any enterprise that creates or preserves U.S. jobs.
Prepare Your Business Plan
The EB-5 business plan is one of the most essential supporting documents to prove your readiness to the USCIS. An EB-5 business plan is different from other business plans and is best prepared by a professional business plan writer. It must carefully highlight the key features of the enterprise you are going to invest in and how it would meet all the program’s requirements.
Invest the Capital and File an I-526
After identifying a project and planning out your business strategy, the next thing is to invest your capital. The EB-5 investment amount is often put into an escrow account at the initial stage. Once that is done, your immigration attorney will help you file an I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor. The form must be submitted alongside other supporting evidence, including the business plan. Once a decision has been made on your petition, USCIS will notify you.
Two-Year Conditional Permanent Residence
If the I-526 is approved, qualified EB-5 visa applicants will be issued a conditional green card, which will be reviewed after two years. Within the two-year period, you must put your capital “at-risk” by investing it. Your capital could be in the form of cash, a cash equivalent, inventory, or debt by assets owned by you and must be acquired by lawful means. The investment must create full-time jobs for at least ten qualifying employees.
Get Your Unconditional Green Card
Two years after the conditional permanent residence, you will file an I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions. This petition must be submitted with supporting evidence showing that your investment has met all the EB-5 requirements within the two years. An approved I-829 petition means the conditions on your status will be removed and you will be issued an unconditional green card to live in the U.S. permanently.
Green Card Through Diversity Visa Program
The Diversity Visa Program is another way of getting a green card without sponsorship. Every year, 50,000 randomly selected individuals are chosen among all entries from countries that have low rates of immigration to the United States. The lottery program is open for application from early October through early November on the Department of State’s website. If you are among the selected winners, you don’t need an employer to sponsor your green card.
Green Card Processing Through Diversity Visa
The process will depend on your location. If you are outside the United States, you will need to file a DS-260 through the United States consulate or embassy in your country of residence. If you are in the United States, you will be required to file an I-485 to adjust from your current status and become a lawful permanent resident. Keep in mind that the success rate of the lottery can be low, as many applicants are competing for the limited number of visas.
Benefits of Self-Petitioning Green Card
The ability to file your own green card petition is a rare advantage in the immigration world. You are not dependent on a family member or organization to gain permanent residence. Another advantage is that it saves time. For instance, most of the other employment-based green card classifications involve a labor certification, which is another rigorous process.
Fortunately, the labor certification is not required for any of the above categories, meaning you have one less step to take in the green card process. Furthermore, becoming a lawful permanent resident makes you eligible to sponsor green card applications for your immediate family members.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Self-petitioning a green card application must be approached with every sense of caution and thoroughness. The chance to circumvent the labor certification and job offer requirements will subject your petition to higher scrutiny. This is why you need an immigration lawyer to help you process your application.
VisaNation Law Group’s seasoned green card attorneys have extensive experience helping individuals apply for various categories of immigrant visas. They have successfully helped many applicants process and acquire green cards without sponsorship. They can help you prepare your petition and supporting documents as well as provide legal representation that will significantly boost your chances of approval. You can schedule a consultation with a VisaNation Law Group green card attorney today by filling out this consultation form.