How To Get a Green Card in the USA Without Marriage

There are various ways to get a green card without being married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. We’ll discuss several methods of obtaining a green card, their requirements, and the forms you’ll need to file.

What Is a Green Card?

Green cards — officially called Lawful Permanent Resident cards — allow individuals to lawfully work and live in the United States. Green card holders are lawful permanent residents (not to be confused with U.S. citizens). In addition to being able to work and live in the U.S., green card holders also:

  • Can pursue U.S. citizenship
  • Can live forever in the U.S.
  • Can work in the U.S. without having to apply for an Employment Authorization Document
  • Can sponsor relatives to get their own green cards
  • Are eligible to receive federal benefits
  • Can apply for various jobs

Related: More Immigration Resources

What’s the Most Common Way To Get a Green Card?

Getting a green card through marriage is one of the most common ways to obtain lawful permanent resident status. However, that’s not very helpful to people who wish to live and work in the U.S. without marriage ties to a citizen or green card holder.

There are various other ways to obtain a green card, whether it’s through your family, employer, or one of the many other available options.

So, how can you become a U.S. permanent resident or citizen without being married? We’ll cover seven other ways to get your green card.

Other Ways To Get a Green Card in the U.S.

Even though getting a green card through marriage is one of the most common paths to becoming a permanent resident of the U.S., there are various other ways, including:

1.   Green Cards For Relatives of U.S. Citizens

One way you can get a green card is by having a U.S. citizen file Form I-130 to petition for you to become a permanent resident. This family-sponsored green card allows close relatives to join their family members in the U.S. Other than a spouse, close relatives can include children and parents of U.S. citizens.  However, more distant relatives (like cousins and grandparents) cannot petition for you.

If you’re closely related to a U.S. citizen, you may be able to get a green card without marriage if you are:

  • An unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen (including step-children and adopted children)
  • The parent of a U.S. citizen
  • A widow or widower of a U.S. citizen
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen

Other people may also be eligible for a family-based green card — an immigration attorney can help you determine your eligibility and what method is best for you to get your permanent resident status.

2.   The Green Card Lottery

The Diversity Immigrant Visa (or green card lottery) program is administered by the U.S. Department of State as a way to help increase the diversity of immigrants coming to live in the country.

Obtaining a green card through this program is arguably “easier” than through other methods; however, it does rely on luck — only 50,000 people each year are granted a green card through the program. If you get lucky, you may also be able to bring your spouse and minor children with you as derivatives.

The green card lottery is a way for families and individuals to immigrate to the U.S. when they wouldn’t otherwise have a legal way to do so.

There are two primary requirements to enter the green card lottery program:

  • You must have been born in one of the countries that sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years. These were the eligible countries for the most recent lottery.
  • You must have a high school degree or two years of work experience over the past five years in a job that requires you to have at least two years of training. The S. Department of Labor determines qualifications.

3.   Employment-Based Green Cards

Unless you meet the EB-1 requirements (discussed below), you’ll need a U.S. employer to sponsor your green card by applying for PERM labor certification and by submitting Form I-140 to the USCIS. The U.S. government grants around 140,000 employment-based green cards each year to immigrants and their families.


There are five categories of employment-based green cards — we’ll cover the three most common (and the final two in the next sections):

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  • EB-1: If you qualify for an EB-1 green card, you may be able to file for yourself rather than having an employer sponsor do so. These green cards are for outstanding professors and researchers, certain multinational managers or executives, and people of extraordinary abilities who have critical acclaim in science, education, athletics, art, or business
  • EB-2: This category is where the majority of employment-based green cards come from. EB-2 requires labor certification and an employer who will sponsor you — the following people may apply for an EB-2 green card:
  • Immigrants with advanced degrees or professional experience
  • People with exceptional abilities that meet three out of seven of these criteria
  • Professionals whose work is deemed to be in the national interest of the U.S. (an employer/sponsor is not required if you qualify for a national interest waiver)
  • If you do not qualify for a national interest waiver, you will be required to have a job offer and an employer sponsor your green card process
  • EB-3: To receive an EB-3 visa, you’ll need an employer to sponsor you and labor certification. It also only applies to full-time workers; however, the experience and education requirements are much less strict than for EB-1 and EB-2 green cards.


4.   Investment-Based Green Cards

Investors who satisfy certain criteria may be eligible for an EB-5 investment-based green card by filing Form I-526.

Related: EB-5 Investor Visa Changes


The two basic criteria that immigrants must meet to obtain an investment-based green card are as follows:

  • They must invest in a US business (and the investment must meet the minimum 8 CFR § 204.6 requirements).
  • They must intend to maintain or create ten or more full-time jobs to be filled by US workers.

In addition to filing Form I-526, applicants must submit evidence showing that:

  • They invested in a for-profit company that satisfies the above-mentioned criteria.
  • The new venture will hire ten new employees (as described above).
  • The number of employees won’t drop below pre-investment levels (only applicable for investing in “troubled businesses”).

Two years after obtaining an EB-5 visa, applicants can apply to remove the conditions on their green card by filing Form I-829 to become a lawful permanent resident.

5.   Green Cards For Special Immigrants

The Special Immigrant Visa program is primarily a way for immigrants who helped the US government while abroad and religious workers to obtain permanent resident status. This green card is the EB-4 immigrant visa — the final of the five subcategories of employment-based green cards.

This category encompasses a broad range of applicants, including:

  • Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters
  • Members of the armed forces
  • Certain physicians
  • Certain Retired NATO-6 employees and their children/spouses
  • Certain Broadcasters
  • Iraqis or Afghans employed on behalf of or by the US government
  • Employees of the Panama Canal or Canal Zone companies
  • Ministers or priests of a religious denomination
  • Non-professionals or professionals in religious occupations

Because the EB-4 category is so broad, the requirements to apply vary based on the applicant. In some cases, petitioners can generally file without an employer, and they will fill out Form I-360 along with supplementary documentation.

6.   Green Cards For Asylum Seekers or Refugees

The difference between seeking a green card as an asylee or refugee depends on where you apply from — asylum green cards are available to people currently in the US, and refugee green cards are available to those currently outside of the US.

Those applying for asylum must:

  • Currently, be present in the US (either by lawful or unlawful entry)
  • Be unwilling or unable to return to their home country due to fear of persecution from one of five things:
    • Religion
    • Race
    • Social group membership
    • Political opinions
    • Nationality

Then, you must file Form I-589 within one year of arriving in the US. Those applying for refugee status must:

  • Be located outside of the US
  • Meet the same fear of persecution requirements listed above
  • Have not resettled somewhere outside of your home country

To apply for a green card as a refugee, you must receive a referral to the USRAP.

7.   Green Cards For Abuse Victims

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows eligible spouses, parents, and children (regardless of their gender) to petition for a green card and obtain lawful permanent resident status. There are various requirements that must be met in order to receive a VAWA green card:

  • The abuser was or is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • You are either
    • The current or past spouse of the abuser
    • The child or parent of the abuser
  • There was abuse in the relationship (verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, and other abuse)
  • The spouses entered the marriage in good faith and not just for immigration purposes
  • The abuse occurred in the U.S.
  • You lived with the abuser
  • You are a “person of good moral character


Victims of abuse can file Form I-360 — the same form for special immigrants. Those in the U.S. may also qualify to adjust their status to become green card holders.


Related: VAWA Eligibility Requirements [2022 Qualifications]

Need Help Navigating Your Green Card Journey? Contact Agarwal Law Group Today!


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Getting a green card isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be confusing. You don’t have to be married to become a permanent resident of the US or to apply for citizenship in the future. Agarwal Law Group can help determine your eligibility for obtaining a green card and walk you through each step of the process.


Ready to start your green card journey? Reach out to us at Agarwal Law Group today to schedule a consultation with Virginia’s immigration law experts.

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