Applying for a green card is more than simply filling out a few forms. Here are 10 things you should know if you plan to go down this path.

1. Your green card timeline is determined by your country of BIRTH, not citizenship. So if you are an Indian citizen born in Africa, consider yourself lucky. You might have just saved years on your green card process.

2. If you are unsure of your long-term plans in the U.S., you can still start the green card process, but do not initiate the final stage until you have thought it through. Giving up your green card down the road has tax implications – consider them before taking the plunge.

3. If you get married in the middle of your green card process, you MAY still be able to add your spouse to your application. Consult a lawyer to see if that’s a possibility.

4. If you are applying in the EB3 category, understand that EB2 can save you considerable time, no matter where you are from. Take the time to understand the requirements for both and if there is a way to apply via EB2 (even if it’s a year down the road in another role or company), it may make sense. A lawyer can help you figure out the best course of action.

5. If you are a U.S. citizen that is planning to get married and want to bring your spouse to the U.S., talk to a lawyer BEFORE you get married to understand the different options (e.g. fiancée visa, etc.)

6. It is often faster to bring a spouse over to the U.S. on your H1/L1 than your green card. It can take anywhere from 2-4 years to sponsor a spouse for a green card (if the petitioner holds a green card). If you are close to becoming a U.S. citizen, it may make sense to wait.

7. Pay your taxes! How you treat your tax obligations can have immigration consequences. If you are behind on your tax payments, talk to an accountant about an “offer of compromise” with the IRS.

8. Once you have a green card, you are eligible to apply for Global Entry – say good-bye to long immigration lines and hello to TSA pre-check.

9. Green card holders cannot sponsor their parents to live permanently in the U.S. You must be a U.S. citizen that is at least 21 years old to petition for a parent.

10. For folks born in countries like India and China, it can be a LONG path to the green card (if applying through an H1). We are talking many, many years. If the goal is to live abroad, countries like Canada, Australia and the UK have relatively friendlier immigration policies. If you have your heart set on America, then buckle up. It is going to be one hell of a ride!

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