How To Get A Green Card In the USA Without Marriage

There are various ways to become a green card holder in the US. Becoming a permanent resident through marriage is one of the most common options — but what if you’re not married and don’t plan to be anytime soon?

Luckily, you have other options.

Are There Green Card Options Without Marriage?

Yes, while marriage-based green cards are a common way to become a permanent resident, there are various other routes to take to get your green card. Let’s explore your options for getting a green card without marriage:

Family-Based Green Cards (Non-Marriage)

When you think of a family-based green card, your mind probably goes straight to marriage. However, you can get a family-based green card through other family members. You’ll find there are many different relationships that qualify.

For example, you might be eligible to obtain a family-based green card if you are:

  • The parent of a U.S. citizen who is over 21 years old
  • An unmarried child of a U.S. citizen under 21
  • An adopted orphan — either living abroad or in the U.S. — by a US citizen
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen
  • Married adult child of a U.S. citizen
  • The unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident
  • Spouse or child of lawful permanent resident

Employment-Based Green Cards

Every year, the government issues thousands of green cards to foreign nationals as employment-based visas.

The most typical (and generally easiest) way to get an employment-based green card is by getting offered a job by a U.S. employer — these visas are usually sponsored by prospective or current employers.

You can apply for an employment-based visa from inside or outside of the U.S. if you currently work for an employer or have received a job offer from one. Your employer will file the green card petition on your behalf.

There are four categories of employment-based visas, all with various requirements. Depending on your skills and situation, you would apply for either an EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, or EB-4 visa.

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Investment-Based Green Cards

Another possible way to get a green card without marriage is with an EB-5 investor green card. However, there are strict (and steep) requirements — this green card is for entrepreneurs who plan to invest either $500,000 or $1,000,000 into certain U.S. businesses.

If this route is a practical option for you, it’s an easier way to become a permanent resident than waiting for a U.S. job offer. However, you must invest in an approved EB-5 business, and your investment must preserve or create at least ten U.S. jobs.

Special Immigrant Green Cards

If you can’t get a green card through marriage, employment, or investing, you might qualify as a special immigrant. However, some particular requirements exist to get this type of green card.

The special immigrant category includes:

  • Religious workers
  • Some broadcasters
  • Certain U.S. government employees & family members
  • U.S. armed forces members
  • Certain Afghan and Iraqi citizens

You can see all of the eligibility requirements for special immigrants here.

Education Green Cards

A woman graduating from university

You may also be eligible for a green card if you’re a student in the U.S. The requirement for this green card is to have completed either a master’s or bachelor’s degree in the U.S.  If you fit into that category, then you can apply for “Optional Practical Training” — a work permit for post-graduates.

After securing a job and working for an employer while on your work permit, you can ask them to sponsor your H-1B visa, granting you the ability to live in the U.S. permanently. This process has many variables and can be complicated; however, it can be an excellent option for international students who plan to get their post-graduate degree. And for many, it may be the best option.

How Much Does A Green Card Cost in 2024?

The majority of green card costs consist of filing fees paid to the U.S. government. These fees vary depending on different factors, including whether you currently reside in the U.S. or not.

The typical costs for filing from inside the US include:

The typical costs for filing from abroad include:

  • Filing For I-130: $535
  • Filing Form I-864: $120
  • State department processing fees: $325
  • USCIS immigrant fee: $220

Either way, you’ll also have to pay for a medical examination, which varies by provider. However, you’ll typically pay between $100 and $500 for the exam.

What’s the Easiest Way To Get A Green Card?

While the fastest and easiest way to get a green card varies based on your situation, there are some routes that are typically faster than others.

Typically, the easiest way is through family-based immigration by meeting one of the qualifications we listed above.

Employment-based green cards can also be relatively easy to get if you meet the requirements. The wait times are usually shorter than other routes; however, the process can be complicated, requiring documentation from both you and your employer.

Finally, there’s the Diversity Immigrant Visa program — also called the “lottery.” However, there are a limited number available each year, and applicants must meet specific requirements. Not to mention that whether you get picked or not comes down to luck.

Can I Stay in the U.S. While Waiting for a Green Card?

Typically, you can stay in the U.S. while waiting for a green card once you file Form I-485. However, the Immigration and Nationality Act outlines some other requirements:

  • You must have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the US.
  • You must have properly filed Form I-485.
  • You must physically be in the U.S.
  • You must be eligible to obtain an immigrant visa.
  • There must be an immigrant visa available immediately when you file.
  • If you are in a preference category (i.e. spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident, sibling or married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen) you must maintain lawful status while waiting for your green card.
  • You are admissible for lawful permanent resident status or have a waiver if you’re inadmissible.

Work With A Trusted Lawyer To Get A Green Card

A man signing paper

The process of obtaining your green card without marriage isn’t easy. It’s complicated and requires time and proper documentation.

Working with an immigration attorney is an excellent way to ensure you file correctly, helping you get your green card faster and giving you a better chance at success.

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