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Special Immigrants: Green Cards for Employees of International Organizations

The immigration system in the U.S. typically only allows individuals to gain green cards through employment or family relationships. However, there are other limited categories that individuals can take advantage of. One of these categories is for certain retired employees of select international organizations residing. Examples of these international organizations are The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The individuals who qualify for green cards by virtue of their employment (or family relationship to an employee of an international organization) are classified as “Special Immigrants.”

This path to a green card, and eventually citizenship, can be very useful for retired employees of international organizations who have lived and worked in the U.S. for a long time and wish to stay after their retirement. Many of these soon-to-be retirees do not have other immigration options such as U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident relatives that can sponsor them. The Special Immigrant category allows these long-time residents of the U.S. to stay in the place that they call home.

In order to qualify as a Special Immigrant under this category, the individual must have worked for the international organization and simultaneously lived in the U.S. for a total of at least 15 years. In addition, the individual must have worked for the international organization and simultaneously lived in the U.S. for a total of at least three-and-a-half of the seven years preceding the date of application for a green card. Finally, the application for a green card must be submitted within six months of retirement. In addition to the retired employee, unmarried sons or daughters, surviving spouses, and spouses are also eligible for a green card as a Special Immigrant.

The application process is broken down into two steps. The first is a petition to prove that the individual qualifies as a Special Immigrant. This requires proving the individual’s employment history with the international organization and residency history. Once this petition is approved, the individual can then apply for a visa (if the individual is outside the U.S.) or adjustment of status (if the individual is inside the U.S.). Regardless of whether the individual is inside or outside the U.S., the final step of the process is obtaining the physical green card in the mail. Five years after obtaining a green card, the individual can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Consult with an immigration lawyer to determine whether you qualify as a Special Immigrant under this category.

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