How to get a green card as a Canadian?
How Do I Get A Green Card As A Canadian? Guidelines
Canadian citizens have always enjoyed the luxury of special rules to get entry to U.S. lands. According to the statistics, around 11,400 Canadians became permanent residents of the U.S. during the financial year 2019. The reports also imply that many new green card holders obtained permanent residency on immediate relative and employment-based visas.
In today’s article, we will guide you on how to get a green card as a Canadian. We will share different pathways for Canadian citizens to become permanent residents of the United States in different visa categories. So let’s get into it.
Overview of Green Cards for Canadians
Understanding green cards and permanent residency in the U.S. is important before we proceed further. There is a difference between citizenship and permanent residency in the United States. As a green card holder, you become a permanent resident of the U.S. and enjoy the right to work and live there.
You will get several other benefits as a green card holder, including citizenship after a certain number of years. Green card holders also get legal protection, they can sponsor green cards for their family members, and they don’t have to give up citizenship in their origin country.
As a Canadian looking to become a green card holder, you must be interested in knowing the different pathways and visa categories that entitle you to get permanent residence in the U.S. So, here is the list of categories for becoming a green card holder as a Canadian citizen:
- Family-sponsored green cards
- Employment-based green cards
- Diversity lottery green card
- Longtime-resident green card
- Investment-based green card
Other pathways you can adopt to get a green card in the U.S. are as follows:
- Marrying to a U.S. Citizen
- Through Adjustment Of Status
- Humanitarian green cards
Family-Sponsored Green Cards
Let’s begin with family-sponsored green cards and who is eligible to get residence on this basis.
Eligibility for family-sponsored green cards
Here are the eligibility criteria to get family-sponsored green cards as a Canadian citizen:
- A US permanent resident can sponsor an immediate relative of age 21 or above. It includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents above the age of 21.
- U.S. citizens can apply for immigrant visas for their children, spouses, parents, and siblings; however, green card holders can file the visas for their spouses and unmarried children.
- You must have an immigrant visa to the U.S. on family-sponsored visas.
- Unmarried children under 21 are eligible to get green cards.
- The residents or citizens can apply for nonimmigrant visas for their fiancees.
Other eligibility criteria include the following:
- You must be present in the United States after being ‘inspected and admitted’ or ‘inspected and paroled’ by the immigration officer.
- Your eligibility to receive an immigrant visa is valid
- The person who filed Form I-130(Petition for Alien Relative) with USCIS for you is still alive
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Process Of Applying Through A US Citizen Or Permanent Resident Relative
You will need to get a Permanent Resident Form to become a permanent resident in the U.S. The eligibility criteria to apply for an adjustment of status are as follows:
You will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, also called an Adjustment of Status, by staying in the United States. If your Form I-130 is still pending, your relatives can also file Form I-485 on your behalf.
Employment-Based Green Cards
A Canadian citizen can also apply for a U.S. green card based on employment or job offers. There are different categories for employment-based immigration to the U.S. which include the following:
EB-1 – The priority workers category is for aliens with extraordinary expertise and abilities in areas of science, business, athletics, education, arts, etc. It also includes professors, researchers, and multinational executives of extraordinary repute.
EB-2 – The EB-2 category caters to professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities.
EB-3 – The skilled workers, professionals, and other workers come under this category.
As a Canadian citizen who has received an offer to work in the U.S., here is the application process to get an immigrant visa and then a green card:
- You or your employer will need to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Your employer will file the application on your behalf.
Note: You can apply for a green card if your immigration process has been completed or the petition is still pending.
- Without leaving the United States, you will file Form I-485, Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Your application will be accompanied by several documents, including your intention to work in the occupational field as mentioned in your Form I-140, government-issued I.D., birth certificate, passport page with a nonimmigrant visa, Copy of Form I-94, etc.
You can check out further details on the USCIS website here.
Green Card Lottery (Diversity Visa Program)
The Diversity Visa Lottery program is a program of the U.S. government in which the State Department selects around 50,000 people from six geographic regions: Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The countries from which little immigration has been done in the past are given preference in this program.
You can apply for the Diversity Visa Program if you meet the following requirements:
- You must be a citizen of the countries eligible to get DV visas to the U.S.
- The countries with less than 50,000 natives who immigrated to the U.S. in the past five years are eligible for the DV program. Unfortunately, Canadian citizens are not eligible for the DV program for FY 2024.
- The applicant must have education or work experience requirements checked for the DV program. It includes 12 years of formal elementary and secondary education or two years of work experience in the last five years.
Investment-Based Green Cards (EB-5)
Another possibility to get a U.S. green card as a Canadian citizen is an employment-based visa of category EB-5. It relates to Investment-based immigrant status in the United States. The eligibility requirements for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program are as follows:
- You have been investing at least $1,050,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. Such an enterprise must have been established after November 29, 1990.
- The enterprise must create full-time positions for at least ten employees
- Or, you must have invested or actively invested $800,000 in specific employment areas or infrastructure projects.
If we talk about the application process to get immigrant Investment-based visas, here is the process:
- You will need to file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, or Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor.
- Once the petition against Forms I-526 and I-526E is approved, the applicant will File DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration with the U.S. Department of State Or Form I-485, Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and initial forms.
- The third step is to file Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. This form should be filed within 90 days before the two-year anniversary of adjustment of Status or admission to the U.S.
- The USCIS will approve your petition, and you can become a lawful permanent United States resident.
Marriage to a U.S. Citizen
If we talk about other pathways to becoming a U.S. green card holder as a Canadian citizen, marrying a U.S. citizen is popular. If you’re going to marry a U.S. citizen or green card holder soon, you can become a green card holder as a Canadian citizen.
As the fiancee of a U.S. resident or citizen, you’re eligible to get K-1 and K-2 nonimmigrant visas. However, once you’re married and have registered your marriage in the U.S., you can apply for permanent residency based on the immediate relative category of immigrant visas.
You will need to file Forms I-130 and I-485 and provide the necessary documentation to prove your marriage to a U.S. citizen. Such documents include your government-issued I.D., documents of your spouse, marriage certificate, etc.
Adjusting Status from a Nonimmigrant Visa
As mentioned in the above section, you can apply for an adjustment of your status from nonimmigrant to immigrant visa when you get married to a U.S. citizen. However, adjustment of status applications also facilitate many other categories of nonimmigrant visas. For instance, you can transition your temporary work visa to a green card.
As a Canadian looking to convert a temporary work visa into a green card, you will not need to go outside of the U.S. for adjustment of status. Your nonimmigrant visa must be valid, and you must not have violated any rules or laws in the U.S. to be able to apply for a change in status from nonimmigrant to resident of the United States.
As a temporary visa holder, you will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Your application will be accompanied by several documents, including your intention to work in the occupational field as mentioned in your Form I-140, government-issued I.D., birth certificate, passport page with a nonimmigrant visa, Copy of Form I-94, etc.
Consular Processing for Green Card Applications
Consular processing is the process of getting a green card when you’re residing outside the U.S. or not eligible to adjust your status from nonimmigrant to resident. As a Canadian citizen, you can adopt consular processing when you’re facing either of the circumstances defined for the method.
The consular process involves filing your immigrant petition in any visa category, getting approval, providing necessary documents, appearing in the interview, and getting the final decision.
When you’re going to appear for your green card interview, you must be prepared and furnish certain documentation as well. Here is how to get prepared for your interview:
- Get a medical exam in Canada before the interview
- Complete your pre-interview checklist of documents. You can check out the pre-interview list here.
- Review the interview guidelines and appear in the interview.
Maintaining Your Green Card and U.S. Permanent Residency
Once you have permanent residence in the U.S. as a Canadian citizen, you must maintain your residence status. Here are a few things you should be careful about to maintain your status:
- You stay on the land of the U.S. for a long period and do not leave for any other country for permanent residence
- You must file federal, state, and local income tax returns as a permanent resident
- You must register for selective service if you’re between the age of 18 and 25 years
- You should inform DHS whenever you move from the U.S.
If you abandon your permanent residency, there can be consequences. Although your ability to apply for new immigration is not affected, you will have to follow a new USCIS application, visa application, and petition to get a new green card in the United States.
Path to U.S. Citizenship for Canadian Green Card Holders
The naturalization process allows permanent residents of different origins to become citizens of the United States. As a Canadian green card holder, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- You have stayed at least 1.5 years in the last three years in the United States before applying for the citizenship on green cards issued by marriage to a U.S. citizen
- For green card holders based on employment and family, the stay should be at least 2.5 years in the last five years before applying for citizenship.
- A Canadian should not stay outside the U.S. for six continuous months to prevent the application from being considered for naturalization.
Pros and cons of dual citizenship
It can be very alluring to get citizenship in the U.S., but there are certain pros and cons of dual citizenship you should know:
- You get political rights in all countries where you have citizenship
- You have to access social services, benefits and privileges as a citizen of the country
- You do not require a visa or permit to visit the countries where you have citizenship
- You can purchase property in either country where you have citizenship
- You can carry passports from all countries easily
- Laws of both countries apply to you, and you have dual obligations as a citizen of two countries.
- You have to bear double taxation when you’re a citizen of two or more countries.
- You might not be able to adopt certain employments when having dual citizenship. For instance, you can not get a U.S. government job without dual citizenship.
If you’re a Canadian citizen and a green card holder of the U.S., you will need to file your taxes in the U.S.
The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. While we aim to provide helpful and accurate information, we make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here or linked to from this material.
Always get professional advice from a US international tax specialist.
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