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Explained: Green Cards for Immigrants

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Anyone who has ever dreamed of living in the United States knows about Green Cards. The Green Card is the unofficial nickname for the Permanent Resident Card, a type of document that allows immigrants to permanently work and live in the United States.

These permits are available to individuals from all regions of the world. Applications for most categories of Green Cards are overseen and administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Despite the rise of COVID-19 which has made travel difficult or impossible, many immigrants around the world are still determined to pursue a path to permanent residency in the United States. Even if you can’t travel, it helps to start the process early and apply well in advance of when you’d be thinking of arriving.

To help those who may be thinking about starting the Green Card process, we’re taking an in-depth look at the eligibility categories, as well as what type of health insurance for Green Card holders is required to complete a successful application.

Common Green Card Eligibility Categories

Immigrants to the United States have several different pathways they can follow in order to obtain a Green Card. Some of these pathways must be pursued with the cooperation of a family member or employer, while other applications can be accomplished alone. Most of the time, it will be easy to determine which category you should be applying under, although an immigration lawyer may be able to help you by offering in-depth information on each category’s eligibility requirements. 

Here are some of the most common green card eligibility categories.


Green Cards for Immigrants

If you are the immediate family member, fiancé(e), or future stepchild of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible to apply for a family-based permanent residency in the United States. There are no quota limitations on Green Cards for spouses, children under the age of 21, or parents of U.S. citizens.

If you’re an older child (either married or unmarried), or the sibling of a citizen or Green Card holder, you may also be considered for family sponsorship. However, USCIS has put limits on the number of these Green Cards that are available, which range between 23,400 and 114,200 per fiscal year, depending on the relationship.  


There are several different sub-categories of employment-based Green Cards that are available to foreign workers. Traditionally, eligible workers must display extraordinary ability in several acceptable fields, including science, the arts, education, business, athletics, or academics. Workers who have at least a bachelor’s or baccalaureate degree have the easiest time getting accepted under the rules of this category, although there are a few sub-categories open to applicants that have skills acquired through training rather than education, or are vying for unskilled labor positions. 

If you’re an investor or are involved in creating jobs for American workers, you may also be eligible, with the United States routinely accepting around 9,000-10,000 ‘immigrant investors’ every year.


Individuals around the world who come to the United States as an asylee or refugee can apply for permanent residence after being present on American soil for at least one year. During this time, the individual must physically remain within the United States, and must also be able to demonstrate that they require protection from persecution or danger.

Unlike other quotas that are determined by need or by the official Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), admission limits for refugees and asylum seekers are determined by the President. Under President Trump, these numbers have plummeted to record lows, with only 18,000 refugees and asylum seekers permitted to enter the country in the 2020 fiscal year.

Special Categories

There are several unique categories of Green Cards available for ‘special immigrants’. These include religious workers, children abandoned by their parents, Afghani or Iraqi nationals who have been employed by American or international security organizations (including the U.S. government or NATO), and international broadcasters. There are no official limits on these types of special visas.


Every year, 55,000 immigrant visas are awarded to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration during the previous 5 years. Instead of being based on merit or circumstance, these 55,000 visas are awarded through a random lottery drawing. In 2020 alone, more than 14 million applicants entered the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Once the individual arrives in the United States, they are able to adjust their status to permanent residency and will receive a Green Card.

Medical Insurance for Green Card Holders

Navigating the American healthcare system can be complex, especially if you’re a new immigrant, or are waiting for your Green Card paperwork to be processed. Before 2019, Green Card holders who lived more than 330 days in the United States were required to have healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.

Although that requirement was abolished effective January 1st 2019, the truth is that health insurance, whether it’s mandatory or not, is an important part of preparing for your new life in the United States. Health insurance for Green Card holders over 65 is especially important, as even a short hospital stay or doctor’s appointment could cost thousands of dollars out of pocket.

President Donald Trump issued a “Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the United States Healthcare System.” This Presidential Order empowers the government to stop the entry of immigrants who either do not carry health insurance or do not have the ability to pay for their medical costs while visiting the US.

Even if you do plan on eventually obtaining Obama Care health insurance, there may be periods where enrollment is closed, and you find that you need to secure reliable short-term health insurance until open enrollment begins again. That’s when a short-term visitor health insurance plan comes in handy.

Find Excellent Medical Insurance for Green Card Holders at Visitor Guard®

Before you enter the United States, make sure you obtain health insurance. At Visitor Guard®, we offer medical insurance for Green Card holders, which protects you while you’re getting settled in your new home.

Don’t risk spending weeks or even months unprotected. Before you leave your home country, contact Visitor Guard® to learn more about our convenient, reasonable health insurance plans for Green Card holders.  

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