Permanent Residence and Naturalization
Houston is a friendly city with a booming economy. It is also a diverse place, and people come from around the world to live here. For a person from another country to move to Houston indefinitely or permanently, he or she must seek to become a permanent resident.
Once the person is a permanent resident, he or she can take steps to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen. Citizenship never expires, and allows a person to vote, run for most public offices and participate in our democracy.
Houston Permanent Residence and Naturalization Lawyer
If you've made the choice to seek permanent residence, if you are an employer seeking to hire a person from out of the United States for a permanent position, or if you a permanent resident seeking to become a U.S. citizen, a Houston immigration lawyer can assist you in the sometimes complex process of attaining your goals.
Kathryn Karam is an attorney who had taken on complex cases and difficult immigration matters, and found creative solutions to help people become permanent residents and U.S. citizens. Call Karam Immigration Law today at (832) 582-0620 to set up a consultation.
Karam Immigration Law assists people seeking assistance with permanent residence or naturalization matters in the Houston area, including Sugar Land, Alief, Sharpstown, Bellaire, Spring Branch, The Woodlands, Clear Lake, League City, Kingwood, Cypress or Tomball.
Information on Green Cards and Citizenship
- Privileges of a Green Card
- Employment-Based Permanent Residence
- Green Card Sponsorship Through Houston Family
- Other Ways to Obtain Permanent Resident Status
- Seeking Citizenship
- Seeking Green Cards or Naturalization in the Houston Area
Privileges of a Green Card
Getting a "green card" means to become a permanent resident. You receive a form of ID that is literally a green card.
As a permanent resident, you will be free to move about the United States, work in any legal job, come and go from the country (with some restrictions involving long absences or criminal history) and serve in the Armed Forces. In fact, male permanent residents older than 18 are required to sign up for Selective Service, meaning they could be drafted into the Armed Forces (although a draft has not happened in decades).
The major aspects of citizenship you will not enjoy are the right to vote and the right to run for public office.
You do not lose your permanent resident status if you lose your job, if the family member who sponsored your green card dies or if you divorce your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. However, permanent residence status does expire after 10 years. You must get it renewed to stay in the United States.
You could lose your status if you stay outside the country too long, move to another country, fail to file income taxes or otherwise demonstrate that you do not intend to be in the U.S. permanently. In addition, permanent residents may be deported from the United States if they commit certain crimes.
Those who obtain their green card through a marriage less than two years old are issued a conditional resident card valid for two years. This means that there are conditions attached to the green card which must be removed before the card expires. After successfully removing the conditions on their residence, these individuals are issued permanent, 10-year resident cards as are all other permanent residents.
Employment-Based Permanent Residence
When a person who is not a citizen or permanent resident is offered a permanent, full-time job in the United States, he or she must obtain a green card. The employer must petition for permanent resident status for the employee.
People seeking employment-based green cards are sorted into different priority groups. Generally, the more skill a job requires and the more qualified the person is, the higher priority group he or she will be grouped into. People with internationally recognized ability may receive a visa upon applying, where unskilled workers may have to wait a decade or more.
Green Card Sponsorship Through Houston Family
A U.S. citizen or permanent resident has the option of sponsoring certain family members for a green card. The status of the sponsoring person and the relationship with the person being sponsored are key factors in determining the wait time for the visa.
A U.S. citizen can sponsor a spouse, unmarried son or daughter younger than 21, or, if older than 21, a parent with no wait time, at all. Children of U.S. citizens older than 21 or who are married, brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and the spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents, however, can have wait times that last decades.
Since the filing of a family-based petition does not confer legal status, a person who subject to a long wait for their permanent residence should meet with an attorney to determine if any short-term or temporary options are available to remain in the United States until they are able to apply for permanent residence based on their family petition.
Other Ways to Obtain Permanent Resident Status
If you are investing a certain amount of money into a business or property in the Houston area, you may self-petition for a visa under the Immigrant Investor (EB-5) program. Those who obtain residence through the EB-5 immigrant investor program are issued a conditional resident card valid for two years. Before the expiration of their conditional residence, they must file to remove the conditions on their residence. If successful, they are issued permanent, 10-year resident cards as are all other applicants for residents.
If you are a refugee or seek asylum from oppression in the United States, you may qualify to apply for a green card. If you are the victim of domestic violence, either as a spouse or child, you may also be able to obtain permanent resident status under certain conditions.
If you are from one of several countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, you may be able to obtain permanent residence through the Diveristy Visa Program or "green card lottery," in which people are randomly selected by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for one of 50,000 green cards.
After a certain amount of time as a permanent resident (five years for most and three years for the spouses of U.S. citizens), you may seek to become naturalized, the process you undergo to become a citizen.
The requirements to naturalization are:
- You must be at least 18 years old;
- You must have lived in your current residence for at least three months, unless you served in the U.S. Armed Services or qualify for other exceptions; and
- You must be a person of good moral character.
- You must meet physical presence and residence requirements which may vary depending on the specific facts of your case.
Good moral character is often determined by your criminal record. Anything that caused you to serve more than 180 days in jail may be a problem. You must also disclose many facts to the government. If any are false, you could lose the opportunity to become a citizen or, if you are granted citizenship, it may be revoked.
You must also take a civics test and an English test. The English test can be waived under certain circumstances.
There are options available to people who have spent significant amounts of time overseas. In addition, the 319(b) naturalization application process is available to those applicants for citizenship who are married to U.S. citizens who work for a U.S. Company and are transferred overseas. An immigration attorney can assist you with determining your eligibility to apply for citizenship.
Seeking Green Cards or Naturalization in the Houston Area
For those seeking either to move to Houston permanently or indefinitely, either for a job, for family or for any reason, the process of getting though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can be a complicated one.
As a Board Certified Attorney in Immigration for Houston, TX, Kathryn Karam understands the system and can help guide you through. Call today at (832) 582-0620 to set up a consultation.