Green Card Lawyer Serving Kirkland, Bellevue, and Greater Seattle

Navigating the complex path to permanent residency in the United States can be daunting. At Marcouiller PLLC, we understand the intricacies of immigration law and are committed to guiding you through every step of the Green Card process.

Whether you’re in Kirkland, Bellevue, or the Greater Seattle area, or indeed anywhere on Earth, our dedicated Green Card Lawyer at Marcouiller PLLC can help you through every step of the process.  Don’t navigate this journey alone; complete the contact form or email us for an initial review of your situation or to schedule an appointment.

Understanding Green Cards: Your Gateway to Permanent Residency

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants individuals the legal right to live and work in the United States indefinitely.  It is a crucial step toward achieving the American dream for many immigrants.

Are there different types of Green Cards?

Yes, there are various categories of Green Cards, including those based on family relationships, employment, refugee or asylee status, and other special categories. Each type has its own eligibility criteria and application process.

Who is eligible for a Green Card?

Eligibility for a Green Card, which shows lawful permanent residency in the United States, is based on one of  several categories. The most common pathways to eligibility include:

    • Family-Based Green Cards:
      • Immediate relatives of adult U.S. citizens: defined as spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of an adult (over age 21) U.S. citizen.  These three relationships are not subject to a “waiting line.”
      • Other family members the law allows are unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens, spouses and unmarried minor children of permanent residents, married children of U.S. citizens, and siblings of U.S. citizens.  The U.S. citizen petitioning for one of these relationships must be over age 21.


    • Employment-Based Green Cards:
      • Workers with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, or multinational managers or executives.
      • Professionals with advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability.
      • Skilled workers, professionals without advanced degrees, and unskilled workers.
      • Special immigrants, including certain religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, and others.
      • Immigrant investors ready to make a significant financial investment in the U.S. that creates or preserves U.S. jobs.


    • Refugee or Asylee Status:
      • Individuals who were admitted to the United States as refugees or were granted asylum can apply for a Green Card one year after their admission.


    • Special Categories:
      • These can include a range of special provisions, such as the U visa for victims of certain crimes, the T visa for victims of human trafficking, and special categories for individuals from certain countries.


    • Diversity Lottery:
      • The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The earth is divided into regions, and the regions into countries.  Many countries are not eligible at all.  Only those from which fewer people immigrated are eligible.  Within the regions, the countries who sent the fewest people to the U.S. get more chances in the lottery.  The point of the program was to maintain some bit, however small, of balance in diversity of who was immigrating, so that, say, not everyone was coming from just a few countries.  When this option was created it was initially called the Irish visa, because Ireland received a fair amount of numbers.  Proof of a high school-level education or GED is required.  Proof of financial support so as not to become dependent on public assistance is required.


    • Victims of Abuse:
      • This includes the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners who are abused spouses (and certain children) of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and certain abused parents of U.S. citizens.


  • Registry:
    • People who have resided continuously in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972, may be eligible to apply for a Green Card regardless of their current immigration status.

Each of these categories has specific requirements and processes. It’s advisable for individuals seeking a Green Card to consult with a Green Card law firm with our experience and track record to understand the eligibility criteria, required documentation, and application process pertinent to their specific situation.

Do I Lose My Home Country Citizenship With A Green Card?

No.  An LPR is still a citizen of whatever country they were a citizen of before obtaining LPR status. Permanent residence is not the same as citizenship.

Can a Green Card Be Used for International Travel?

No. A green card is not an internationally-recognized travel document. When travelling internationally an LPR will travel on the passport of their country of citizenship, and show the green card to be re-admitted into the U.S.

Navigating the Green Card Process: Timelines, Costs, and Legal Support

How long does the Green Card process take?

The duration of the Green Card process varies depending on the category of the Green Card, the movement of the priority dates, and individual circumstances.  In recent years the processing time alone came to be over two years for those adjusting status in the U.S. and longer for those who needed to get a visa appointment at a U.S. consulate abroad.  The government is taking a number of actions to clear the backlogs including moving cases to other offices that have more capacity and waiving some interviews.  The time has been notably reduced with those actions.  It really isn’t valid to give a time frame, as the situation changes.  Complete the contact form or email our office for an initial review of your specific situation.

Can a Green Card attorney expedite my Green Card application?

While a Green Card attorney cannot directly speed up the USCIS processing time, an experienced green card lawyer with expertise in preparing and managing your application can help avoid delays caused by errors or incomplete information.  Having a highly knowledgeable attorney can take you through the evidence and information required in a much clearer cleaner smoother, and so faster, way than trying to figure it out on your own.  We’ve seen many people who tried to do it on their own only to learn they didn’t do it correctly, and it took very much longer to deal with it as a result.

Maintaining and Leveraging Your Green Card Status

How long is a Green Card valid?

Most Green Cards are valid for 10 years, after which they must be renewed.  Conditional Green Cards, typically granted through a marriage to a U.S. citizen entered into less than 2 years prior to approval, are valid for 2 years.

What should I do if my Green Card application is denied?

If your application is denied, you may have options for appeal or reapplication. Consulting with a Green Card attorney can help you understand your next steps.

Knowing your rights and the available courses of action can significantly impact your journey toward obtaining permanent residency in the United States. When a Green Card application is denied, it’s crucial to understand the reasons behind the decision. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically provides a detailed explanation for the denial. This information is key to determining your next steps.

In many cases, you may have the option to file an appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision. An appeal involves requesting a different authority to review the decision, while a motion asks the same authority that made the original decision to review it based on new or additional information.

Navigating the appeals process or preparing a motion can be complex and time-sensitive. You only have 30 days to file the appeal, and your attorney will need that time to prepare the appeal well.  Don’t wait!  This is where the expertise of a Green Card lawyer becomes invaluable.  As an experienced Bellevue Green Card attorney, Marcouiller PLLC can:

  • Provide a comprehensive analysis of your case
  • Help you understand the reasons for denial
  • Advise you on the feasibility and strategy for an appeal or motion
  • Assist in gathering and presenting additional evidence or documentation
  • Represent you in legal proceedings, if necessary

It is essential to work with a highly experienced green card attorney from the beginning, in order to evaluate and determine if there’s a way to avoid a potential basis for denial in the first place and be ready with the evidence and arguments to do so.  Typically, you would first get a Request for Evidence (RFE) if USCIS thinks there’s an issue, and you want expertise on your side to respond to the RFE.  If they still have concerns, you’ll get a Notice of Intent to Deny, to which you will also respond, before you get an actual denial.

We urge you not to just go along doing what you can on your own to respond, and then get a green card attorney lawyer after it’s already denied.  Work with a highly experienced immigration lawyer from the beginning to avoid the extra delay and expense of having to defend an issue with your case.  It is to your benefit to have an attorney on your side who will give an honest evaluation  and assessment of your case in the beginning.  Though we’d love to work with you, we will advise you what is in your own best interest, even if it means recommending you not apply, because you could end up in a worse situation, like removal proceedings.

Can I travel outside of the U.S. with a Green Card?

Yes.  As a Green Card holder, you are generally allowed to travel outside of the United States using the passport of your country of citizenship to travel internationally, and the green card to re-enter the U.S.  However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Duration of Travel. While short trips are usually not a problem, extended stays outside the U.S. can raise questions about whether you in fact maintain your primary place of residence in the U.S., as required.  If you are deemed to have abandoned your permanent residency, you will lose your green card.  If you plan to be outside of the United States for six months but less than one year, you will want to talk with us before leaving for ways to maintain your residency.  If you know you will be gone for over a year, perhaps a two-year graduate school program abroad or temporary work assignment, be sure to contact us regarding applying for a reentry permit before leaving the U.S.
  • Reentry Permit. If you know in advance that you will need to be outside the United States for more than one year, it’s advisable to apply for a reentry permit before leaving. This permit, valid for up to two years, can help prevent issues when you return to the U.S., though by itself it is not determinative, meaning the government can still consider other facts to find that you abandoned your residency, so it’s important to talk with a very experienced permanent residency lawyer.
  • Frequent and Prolonged Absences. Repeatedly spending extended periods outside the U.S. can also lead to scrutiny regarding your permanent residence status. Immigration authorities may question whether you have abandoned your residency, especially if you spend more time abroad than in the U.S. If you are out of the U.S. for several months and in the U.S. only for a matter of weeks, and do that repeatedly, at some point when you try to enter the U.S. the CBP inspector at the port of entry will say you aren’t maintaining your residency.  Depending on the facts of your case and on the officer, you may be advised to stay in the U.S., or to get a re-entry permit, or you may be put into removal proceedings and need to defend your residency before an immigration judge.
  • Criminal Issues or Immigration Violations. If you have had any legal issues or immigration violations, traveling outside the U.S. could pose risks, including the possibility of being barred from reentry.
  • Travel to Home Country. If your Green Card was granted based on asylum or refugee status, traveling to your home country from which you claimed persecution could have serious implications for your status.

It’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney before planning extended travel outside of the U.S. to ensure that your rights and residency status are protected. If you’re in the Kirkland, Bellevue, or Greater Seattle area and have questions about traveling as a Green Card holder, feel free to contact Marcouiller PLLC for advice tailored to your specific situation.

How does having a Green Card affect my path to U.S. citizenship?

A Green Card is a prerequisite for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.  Permanent residents can typically apply for citizenship after five years, or three years if married to and residing with a U.S. citizen for the full three years.

Complete the contact form or email us for an initial review of your situation and to schedule a personal meeting.

Marcouiller PLLC has been assisting with Green Card applicants for three decades, offering personalized guidance tailored to each client’s unique situation.

Whether you’re just starting on your journey to permanent residency or facing challenges along the way, Barbara Marcouiller is part of your team. Contact us to take a significant step toward securing your future in the United States.

This is general information and does not constitute legal advice; each case must be analyzed independently. Nothing here creates an attorney/client relationship; each potential client must set up an appointment for proper analysis, and written agreement if after a full analysis we both agree in writing that we accept to represent the case and you also agree that you want us to represent your case as detailed specifically in the written contract.

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