Two Interesting Ways You Can Get a Green Card

First things first, college grads: Congrats!

As soon as you step off that podium, you’re officially entering the “real world.”

For international students graduating from U.S. universities, you might be curious about how to get a green card so you can launch your career in the United States.

If you are able to invest in a business or you have an “extraordinary ability,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration office (or UCIS), says you might able to qualify for one.

But just how much do you have to invest? And what exactly counts as an extraordinary talent?

Here’s some more information about these two paths to a green card.

Green card through investment

Have an idea for a business or an area you want to invest in? Every year, the United States government issues 10,000 visas for eligible entrepreneurs. But, before you consider this option, know this: You’ll need to have a lot of cash. In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to you. Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 would also qualify.  

To be considered you must invest $1 million in a U.S. business. Or, you could invest at least $500,000 in targeted employment areas, which include high unemployment or rural areas. The unemployment rate in the area needs to be at least 150 percent higher than the national average, explains NOLO, a publishing company that specializes in legal books and software. Some state governments will cull this list and provided it to UCIS to help you understand which locations qualify.

Under this federal program, known as an EB-5, immigrants who make investments that can create at least 10 jobs can apply for a green card, The New York Times explains, and this pathway can take about two years to obtain legal residency. Other pathways can take several years.

More than 80 percent of immigrants taking part in this federal program are from China, according to the Times, and many are investing in hotels and housing projects. 

Curious in how to apply for an EB-5? Here’s where you can find out more information about the EB-5 Investor Petition and Application process.

If you’re a college student looking to potentially seek citizenship through this route, but don’t have a lot of cash to invest upfront, it might be worth meeting with an immigration attorney to discuss your investment options.



Green card through ‘extraordinary ability’

If you’re super-talented in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, that might qualify you for a green card through petition, according to the U.S. government.

But what exactly does that mean?

If you can always solve those crossword puzzles or you’ve got a great jumper you honed playing pick-up basketball, does that count?

Probably not.

Rather, UCIS has a set of 10 questions. You must answer “yes” and submit evidence to support your affirmative answer to at least three of these questions.

You can find the full list of questions here. But, here are some examples: “Have you authored scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media?”; “Is there published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about you which relates to your work in the field?”; “Have you participated on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization?”

Our best advice? No matter your field, establish yourself as an expert in it.

  • You can start by working in a lab alongside an expert faculty member and involve and familiarize yourself in the research process. Also, if you are able to publish your research, connect with the media relations office at your university so that you can get the word out about your research, and, possibly be contacted by the media and quoted in articles.
  • Attend networking events in your field and join professional organizations, which could gain you access to panels or positions where you could be a judge.
  • Remember, this isn’t limited to the sciences. You could qualify if your work has been displayed at exhibits or if you’ve enjoyed commercial success in the performing arts. Check in with the career service’s office at your university, where counselors will know about job opportunities and could even possibly connect you with auditions or exhibits. It’s also a good idea to network with adjunct faculty in the field as they may know of opportunities. Another question to ask? Does your university have theater productions or an on-campus art museum where you could gain exposure?
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