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Types of Green Cards and the International Student

Bridge Team Member

Being a member of the UC Berkeley community has allowed me to experience culture and lifestyles from all over the world. One question that had always been in the back of my mind however, was how these students obtained their residency status in the U.S. After many conversations and a little bit of research I was able to learn a bit about the main ways that people immigrate to the U.S.

Defining a Green Card:

A green card is basically permission from the U.S government to live and work within the borders of the United States. This document is usually required for employment in the United States. This is also required for medical services and housing in the U.S.

Main types of Green Cards:

Relatives of U.S Citizens

Immigration is possible through family members, as long as those family members are U.S citizens or legal permanent residents. You can be sponsored for immigration if you are one of the following family members of a U.S. citizen. If your family member is a legal permanent resident, some of these options are not available to you (e.g. not eligible as a sibling of a legal permanent resident). You can find out whether you qualify specifically by completing our immigration eligibility report.

- Husband or Wife

- Child under 21 years old

- Unmarried child over 21

- Married child of any age

- Brother or sister (if you're at least 21)

- Parents (provided they are at least 21 years old)

Preferred Employees and Workers 

Every year, 140,000 green cards are available to people with jobs and skills that are under serviced in the U.S. Since the U.S government gives preference to certain job types, you may wait longer on a waitlist if you are skilled in a low preference area. Priority is currently given to:

- People with special skills in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics.

- Professors or researchers

- Managers and executives of national corporations

Long Term Residents

If you entered the U.S. illegally, you may still be eligible for permanent residence. To qualify, your spouse or children must be U.S. citizens and you must be able to prove they would "face extraordinary and exceptionally unusual hardship" if you were deported. If this situation could apply to you, consult a lawyer, as a direct approach to the USCIS could get you deported without adequate proof.

International Students:

Students wishing to study in the U.S wishing to study full time are usually admitted in a category called the F-1. The F-1 does not provide permanent residency to students, but it allows students to be temporarily in the U.S. while they get an education (hence known as a "non-immigrant visa"). This includes academic students in colleges, universities, academic high schools, and in language training. Students first apply to the institution and, if accepted, are given a Form I-20 that awards a student status. Students then take the I-20 to a U.S consulate where they must prove that they have the financial resources required for their education and stay in the United States.

Hopefully you have a slightly greater understanding of some of the green cards available and insight as to how International Students obtain residency in the United States. If you have any questions at all, reach out to us on Facebook or email!


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