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Unlocking Permanent Residency: How to Get a Green Card in USA Without Marriage

Unlocking Permanent Residency: How to Get a Green Card in USA Without Marriage

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Dreaming of a life in a land of opportunity? The United States beckons with its promise of prosperity and a brighter future. While many associate obtaining a green card with marriage, there are other pathways to make your American dream come true. If you're seeking guidance on these pathways, consider consulting a green card lawyer in Chicago with SimVisa.

This article will unveil the secrets to securing a green card without tying the knot, whether you're a skilled professional, an entrepreneur, or someone who’s simply looking for a fresh start. Discover how to pave your own path to permanent residency.

Types of Green Cards that Don’t Require Marriage

In addition to the marriage-based green card route, there are several alternative options available to immigrant visa applicants seeking permanent residence in the United States. These are generally based on factors such as employment, entrepreneurial ventures, personal skills, investments, familial connections, or special immigrant status.

In the United States, there are six distinct avenues through which immigrant visa applicants and their family members can obtain a green card:

  1. Employment-Based Visas
  2. Investor-Based Visas
  3. Education-Based Visas
  4. Family-Based Visas
  5. The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery
  6. Asylum and Refugee Status

It’s important to note that those who aren’t a spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen, or a spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) may not be able to obtain a family-based green card, or doing so may involve lengthy waiting periods.

With the exception of the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery, which operates as a randomized lottery system and doesn’t require a petition, all other green card applications are subject to a review and adjudication process by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

1. Employment-Based Green Cards

Employment-Based Green Cards

It’s possible to acquire a green card in the United States without relying on marriage by going through various employment-based avenues. These courses are designed to attract and retain talented individuals from around the world who can contribute to the country's economy and culture.

Here’s an overview of the different categories of employment-based green cards:

Employment Sponsorship

One common route to a green card is through employment sponsorship, which typically involves a U.S. employer petitioning for a foreign worker to fill a specific role. This process varies depending on the type of job and the applicant’s qualifications.

EB-1: Extraordinary Ability

The EB-1 category is reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities in their field, such as outstanding researchers, multinational managers or executives, and those with extraordinary talent in arts, sciences, education, or athletics. These people can self-petition for a green card without the need for a job offer.

EB-2: Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability

The EB-2 category is for individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in their respective fields. This includes professionals with advanced degrees, individuals with exceptional skills in the sciences, arts, or business, and those with a National Interest Waiver, which allows them to bypass the labor certification process.

EB-3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers

EB-3 is for skilled workers, professionals, and other classes of workers. For classification purposes, “skilled workers” are individuals with at least two years of job experience or training, while “professionals” hold a bachelor's degree or its foreign equivalent. “Other workers” are in occupations that require less than two years of training.

EB-4: Special Immigrant Green Card

The EB-4 category is reserved for special immigrants, including religious workers, certain employees of U.S. foreign service posts, and other unique cases. It’s a diverse category that covers various individuals who contribute to the nation in specific ways.

While marriage is one way to obtain a green card in the U.S., employment-based options, including the special immigrant green card, offer other methods for individuals with valuable skills, talents, and qualifications.

These categories offer opportunities for foreign nationals to secure permanent residency and contribute to the country's diverse workforce and culture without relying on marital connections. Each category has its own particular requirements and procedures, so applicants should explore the one that best fits their qualifications and goals.

2. Investment-Based Green Cards

Investment-Based Green Cards

Another way to obtain a green card without getting married is through an investor-based green card program. The most popular of these programs is the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. This program is designed to attract foreign investors who are willing to invest a significant amount of capital into a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs for U.S. workers.

To qualify for the EB-5 program, an investor typically needs to invest either $1.8 million in a new commercial enterprise or $900,000 in a targeted employment area (TEA), which is a region with high unemployment or a rural area.

The investment must also create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years of the investor's admission to the U.S. as a conditional permanent resident.

Once the investment is made and the requirements are met, the investor and their immediate family (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can apply for conditional permanent residency.

After two years, provided the investment and job creation criteria have been fulfilled, the conditions on the green card can be removed, making it a permanent green card and allowing the investor and their family to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely.

The EB-5 program is an attractive option for individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States for business purposes. However, it’s important to note that the program has specific requirements and regulations that investors must adhere to. It’s advisable to consult an immigration attorney to navigate the complex application process successfully.

3. Education Green Cards

International students can also acquire a green card through the pursuit of higher education.

To qualify for this path, one must successfully complete either a bachelor's or master's degree program within the U.S. Upon accomplishing this academic milestone, eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) is granted, essentially providing a one-year work permit for recent graduates.

During this OPT period, the next step is to secure employment, ideally within one's field of study, and work for the chosen company for a duration of one year under the work permit.

After this year of employment, it becomes possible to approach the employer and request sponsorship for an H-1B visa. This multifaceted process requires the employer to obtain labor certification, submit various forms, and provide the requisite supporting documentation.

Ultimately, the successful acquisition of an H-1B visa allows the individual to establish permanent residence in the U.S.

The process of obtaining an H-1B visa is complex and influenced by various factors, including personal circumstances, educational background, job market conditions, and financial resources. Nonetheless, it may be the best option for numerous international students pursuing advanced degrees in the United States.

4. Family-Based Green Cards

Family-Based Green Cards

Family-based green cards are typically available to close relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. There are two main categories for family-based green cards.

Immediate Relatives

Spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of adult U.S. citizens have priority in the green card application process. These categories have no numerical limits, making the process quicker and more straightforward.

Family Preference Categories

These categories include more distant relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, such as adult children, siblings, and married children of U.S. citizens. Each category has a limited number of green cards available each year, leading to potentially longer waiting periods.

To obtain a family-based green card, the sponsoring family member must file a petition on behalf of the foreign relative. Once the petition is approved, the relative must wait for their priority date to become current before applying for a green card. Wait times can vary based on the specific family preference category and the country of the foreign national's origin.

Family-based green cards are an important avenue for individuals hoping to obtain U.S. permanent residency without having to marry a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The process can be lengthy and somewhat complicated, but it offers a valuable opportunity for family reunification in the United States.

5. Diversity Visa Lottery

The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery is a unique and popular way to obtain a green card in the U.S. without taking on the requirements of marriage or family sponsorship.

The DV Lottery, also known as the Green Card Lottery, is an annual program run by the United States government that grants up to 50,000 immigrant visas to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

To participate, applicants must meet certain eligibility criteria, including having a high school education or equivalent work experience. The application process typically opens once a year, and winners are selected through a random lottery system.

This program provides a path to lawful permanent residency for individuals from diverse backgrounds, promoting inclusivity in the United States’s immigration system.

Winning the Diversity Visa Lottery can be a life-changing opportunity for foreign nationals who dream of living and working in the U.S. It offers a chance to pursue the American dream based on merit and diversity rather than family connections.

That said, the application process can be competitive and comes with strict eligibility requirements, so potential applicants should carefully review the guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of State before applying.

6. Asylum and Refugee Status

Asylum and Refugee Status

The immigration options pertaining to asylum and refugee status are rooted in humanitarian principles, offering security and opportunity to people who face persecution or fear for their safety in their home countries. These options encompass two distinct categories.

Asylum Seekers

If you have a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country based on factors like race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, you can apply for asylum in the United States. If granted asylum, you can eventually apply for a green card one year after receiving asylum status.


Refugees are individuals who live outside their home country and are unable or unwilling to return due to fear of persecution.

To obtain refugee status in the U.S., you must be referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or be part of a designated group. After entering the country as a refugee, you can apply for a green card one year after arrival.

Trust SimVisa to Help You Secure a Non-Marriage-Based Green Card

Obtaining a green card in the U.S. without marrying a legal citizen can be challenging, but with the right guidance and support, it's absolutely achievable.

SimVisa’s dedicated team of immigration professionals is here to lead you through this intricate process. We understand the dreams and aspirations that drive you to seek permanent residency in the United States, and we're committed to helping you turn those dreams into a reality.

Don't let the complexities of immigration law keep you from accomplishing your goal. Contact us today to make us your partners on this life-changing journey. Together, we can remove the barriers to a brighter future in the United States.

SohYoon Atac
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

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