How to get a green card is Best Steps: Obtaining a green card (officially known as a United States Permanent Resident Card) involves a multi-step process. Keep in mind that immigration laws and procedures can change.
How to get a green card: So it’s essential to check for the latest information on the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website or consult with an immigration attorney. As of my last knowledge update, here are the general steps to get a green card.
Determine Your Eligibility: Understand the eligibility criteria for the green card category that applies to you. Common categories include family-sponsored, employment-based, refugee/asylee status, and the Diversity Visa Program (lottery).
File the Immigrant Petition: If you are applying through a family member or employer, they must file an immigrant petition on your behalf. This step is not required for the Diversity Visa Program.
Wait for Visa Number Availability: Family-sponsored and employment-based applicants may need to wait for a visa number to become available, as there are numerical limits for these categories.
File Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) or Consular Processing: If you are already in the U.S., you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident. If you are outside the U.S., consular processing will be necessary.
Biometrics Appointment: Attend a biometrics appointment where your fingerprints, photo, and signature will be taken for background checks.
Attend an Interview (if required): USCIS may schedule an interview to assess the validity of your application.
Receive a Decision: You will receive a decision on your green card application. If approved, you will receive your green card. If denied, you may be able to appeal the decision.
Pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee: Before traveling to the U.S., pay the USCIS immigrant fee online.
Receive Your Green Card: If you are outside the U.S., you will be issued an immigrant visa, allowing you to travel and enter as a permanent resident. If you are already in the U.S., your green card will be mailed to you.
Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities: Familiarize yourself with the rights and responsibilities of a permanent resident, including the requirement to carry your green card at all times and to renew it as necessary.
How to get a green card: It’s strongly recommended to consult with an immigration attorney or a reputable immigration service to ensure that you meet all the requirements and to navigate the process successfully. The USCIS website is a valuable resource for up-to-date information and forms.
How to get a green card Step by Step
Determining your eligibility for a green card involves understanding the specific category under which you qualify. Here are some common eligibility categories:
Family-Sponsored Green Cards:
Immediate Relatives: Spouses, unmarried children under 21 years, and parents of U.S. citizens.
Family Preference Categories: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years and older) of U.S. citizens, spouses and unmarried sons and daughters (any age) of green card holders, and married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
Employment-Based Green Cards:
- EB-1: Priority workers, including individuals with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers.
- EB-2: Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities.
- EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers with less than two years of training or experience.
- EB-4: Special immigrants, including religious workers, broadcasters, and certain Iraqis and Afghans who worked for the U.S. government.
Refugee or Asylee Status: If you were granted refugee or asylee status, you may be eligible to apply for a green card after one year of continuous residence in the U.S.
Diversity Visa (DV) Program: The Diversity Visa Lottery, also known as the Green Card Lottery, is a program that provides a limited number of diversity visas to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
Special Programs: This category includes individuals who may be eligible through special programs, such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners, victims of human trafficking, and certain individuals born in specific countries or regions.
How to get a green card: It’s crucial to carefully review the eligibility requirements for the specific green card category that applies to your situation. The USCIS website provides detailed information and eligibility criteria for each category.
Additionally, consulting with an immigration attorney can help you understand your eligibility, navigate the application process, and address any specific concerns or circumstances you may have.
File the Immigrant Petition
How to get a green card: Once you have determined your eligibility for a green card, the next step is to file an immigrant petition. The type of petition you file depends on the category under which you are applying. Here are the common petition forms associated with different green card categories:
Family-Sponsored Green Cards:
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: This form is used by U.S. citizens or permanent residents to establish the qualifying relationship with their family members.
Employment-Based Green Cards: Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker: This form is filed by U.S. employers on behalf of foreign workers in specific employment-based categories.
Refugee or Asylee Status: If you were granted refugee or asylee status, you may not need to file a petition. Instead, you can directly apply for adjustment of status using Form I-485.
Diversity Visa (DV) Program: If you are selected in the Diversity Visa Lottery, you will need to follow the instructions provided in the notification letter and submit a visa application.
Special Programs: The petition forms vary depending on the specific program. For example, individuals filing under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) may use Form I-360, while victims of human trafficking may use Form I-914.
Here is a general overview of the steps involved in filing an immigrant petition:
Complete the Form: Fill out the appropriate petition form accurately and completely. Follow the form instructions and ensure you provide all required supporting documentation.
Filing Fee: Pay the required filing fee. Fee amounts can change, so check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information.
Submit the Petition: Mail the completed form, supporting documents, and filing fee to the address specified in the form instructions.
Receipt Notice: Once USCIS receives your petition, they will issue a receipt notice confirming the acceptance of your application. This notice will include a receipt number that you can use to track the status of your petition.
How to get a green card: It’s important to keep copies of all documents submitted and to monitor the status of your petition. USCIS may request additional information or evidence during the processing of your petition. If your petition is approved, you can then proceed to the next steps in the green card application process.
Wait for Visa Number Availability
How to get a green card: The next step is to wait for a visa number to become available. Visa numbers are subject to annual limits, and the availability depends on the immigrant category and the relationships or qualifications of the applicants.
Here are some key points to understand:
Preference Categories: The family-sponsored and employment-based green card categories are divided into preference categories, each with its own numerical limits. The waiting time depends on the applicant’s relationship to the petitioner and the preference category.
Visa Bulletin: The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin that provides information on visa number availability. The Visa Bulletin indicates the priority dates for each preference category and the countries of chargeability. Your priority date is the filing date of your immigrant petition.
Priority Dates: Applicants must wait for their priority date to become current before they can proceed with the next steps of the green card process. If the demand for visas is high in a particular category, individuals may experience a waiting period.
Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: If you are in the United States, and if your priority date becomes current, you can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If you are outside the U.S., you can go through consular processing by attending an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
Immediate Relatives: Spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens are considered immediate relatives and do not have to wait for visa numbers. They can generally proceed with the green card process immediately after the petition is approved.
To check the current status of visa number availability, review the monthly Visa Bulletin on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
How to get a green card: It’s important to stay informed about the progress of your case and take appropriate action when your priority date becomes current.
File Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) or Consular Processing
How to get a green card: After the immigrant petition is approved, the next step is to apply for permanent residency by filing either Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) or by going through consular processing. The choice between adjustment of status and consular processing depends on your current location and circumstances.
Adjustment of Status (Form I-485)
You must be physically present in the United States to file Form I-485.
You must have a current priority date, and a visa number must be available.
- Complete Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
- Include supporting documents, such as proof of eligibility, identity, and any required medical examinations.
- Pay the filing fee.
Biometrics Appointment: After submitting your application, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment where your fingerprints, photo, and signature will be taken.
Interview (if required): USCIS may schedule an interview to verify the information provided in your application. Attend the interview with all necessary documents.
Decision: USCIS will make a decision on your adjustment of status application. If approved, you will receive your green card.
- You are outside the United States or ineligible for adjustment of status.
- You have an approved immigrant petition.
- A visa number is available.
- After the immigrant petition is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) will process the case. You will receive instructions on submitting fees and supporting documents.
- Complete the required forms, including DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application.
- Attend Medical Examination: Undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician.
- Attend Consular Interview: Schedule and attend a consular interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Bring all required documents.
- Receive Immigrant Visa: If approved, you will be issued an immigrant visa on your passport, allowing you to travel to the United States.
- Pay USCIS Immigrant Fee: Before traveling to the U.S., pay the USCIS immigrant fee online.
- Travel to the U.S.: After receiving the immigrant visa, travel to the United States before the visa expiration date.
- Receive Green Card: After entering the U.S., the actual green card will be mailed to your U.S. address.
How to get a green card: Make sure to follow the specific instructions provided by USCIS or the NVC, depending on whether you choose adjustment of status or consular processing.
How to get a green card: A biometrics appointment is a standard part of the U.S. immigration process, including the application for a green card. During this appointment, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) collects certain biometric information from the applicant.
Biometrics generally include fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature. The purpose of biometrics is to conduct background checks and verify the identity of the applicant.
Here are the key points regarding the biometrics appointment:
For Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) Applicants:
Notification: After filing Form I-485, USCIS will send you a notice indicating the date, time, and location of your biometrics appointment.
- Bring the appointment notice with you to the biometrics center.
- Bring a valid government-issued photo identification (such as a passport or driver’s license).
Fingerprinting: At the biometrics appointment, your fingerprints will be taken. This information is used for background checks.
Photograph and Signature: A photograph and signature may also be collected during the appointment.
No Rescheduling Without Cause: USCIS typically does not allow rescheduling of biometrics appointments unless there is a valid reason. If you miss the appointment without proper cause, it may delay the processing of your application.
For Consular Processing Applicants:
If you are going through consular processing outside the United States, you generally do not have a biometrics appointment as part of that process. The biometrics process is typically associated with adjustment of status applicants who are already in the U.S.
Tips for the Biometrics Appointment:
- Arrive on time for your appointment.
- Dress neatly and professionally.
- Follow any specific instructions provided in the appointment notice.
- Notify USCIS if you have a scheduling conflict or cannot attend the appointment for a valid reason.
How to get a green card: After the biometrics appointment, USCIS will use the collected information to conduct background checks as part of the overall evaluation of your application. If everything is in order, your application will continue to be processed, and you may be scheduled for an interview, depending on the specific requirements of your case.
Receive Your Green Card
How to get a green card: Once your green card application has been approved, the final step is to receive your actual green card, officially known as the United States Permanent Resident Card. Here is what typically happens after the approval:
Approval Notice: After USCIS approves your green card application, you will receive an approval notice in the mail. This notice confirms that your application has been approved and provides additional instructions.
Production of the Green Card: USCIS will produce and mail the physical green card to the address you provided in your application.
USCIS Immigrant Fee: Before you receive your green card, you must pay the USCIS immigrant fee online. This fee covers the cost of producing and delivering the green card. USCIS will not mail your green card until this fee is paid.
USCIS Immigrant Fee Payment Process:
- Visit the USCIS website and follow the instructions for paying the immigrant fee. You will need your Alien Registration Number (A-Number) and other relevant information.
- After payment, USCIS will send you a confirmation receipt.
Delivery of the Green Card: Once the USCIS immigrant fee is paid, USCIS will mail your green card to the address you provided. The delivery time may vary, but you can generally expect to receive it within a few weeks.
Review the Green Card: Upon receiving your green card, carefully review all the information on the card to ensure accuracy. Report any errors to USCIS promptly.
Renewal Reminder: The green card has an expiration date. Be aware of the expiration date and initiate the renewal process well before it expires.
Rights and Responsibilities: Familiarize yourself with the rights and responsibilities of being a U.S. permanent resident. This includes obligations such as carrying your green card at all times and renewing it when necessary.
Keep Records: Keep a copy of your approval notice, the green card, and any other relevant documents in a safe and easily accessible place.
How to get a green card: The specific process and timelines can vary, so always follow the instructions provided by USCIS and stay informed about the status of your application.
If you encounter any issues or have questions, consider consulting with an immigration attorney for guidance. USCIS’s online case status tool is a useful resource for checking the status of your green card application.