You’ve come to the United States lawfully, but you’re on a limited visa. You’d like to stay here permanently. To do so, you must get a green card. A green card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows a person from another country to live and work permanently in the United States. The card is similar in size and shape to a credit card. It includes all relevant information about you, including a picture, your name, date of birth, fingerprint, country of birth, and the date you became a permanent resident.
There are a number of ways to qualify for a green card:
An applicant may be ineligible for a green card due to any of the following:
An attorney who practices immigration law can explain any waivers and exceptions to these ineligibility criteria.
To qualify for a green card through sponsorship by a family member, you must be in one of the following categories:
To initiate the process of obtaining a green card for a family member, you must file Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative. This document must be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You must also typically file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, indicating your intent to financially provide for your family member when he or she first comes to the United States.
If the spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen is a victim of domestic violence, they can petition for a green card without sponsorship by the abuser. Such petitions require the filing of Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
A person may qualify for a work-based green card as a worker or an investor in a U.S. business:
The employment-based immigration process can be complex, requiring a test to see if there are qualified American workers available in the local labor market. Once this is done, the employer must submit a labor-certification application with the U.S. Department of Labor.
An individual who has been admitted to the United States as a refugee under section 207 of the Immigraiton and Nationality Act (INA), or who has been granted asylum, may apply for a green card after they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year. Immigrants are eligible for asylum or refugee status if they have suffered persecution in their native country or if they fear that they will suffer persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery (DV Program), is a free lottery-based program administered by the United States government that gives foreign nationals the opportunity to obtain lawful permanent residency. Applicants do not need to base their applications on family relationship, asylum status, or employment. Most winners of the DV Program lottery reside outside the United States, but a small number of winners each year are already residing in the U.S.
Created in 1990, the DV program randomly selects 50,000 applicants every year for potential lawful permanent residency status. Applicants must have been born in a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States, or must be either:
Applicants must also have completed a high school education and have worked at least two of the last five years.
Because the DV Program is intended to increase diversity in the U.S., it is not open to persons born in countries with high rates of immigration to the U.S. For example, for 2023, natives of Mexico, Canada, mainland China, Guatemala, India, and several other countries are not eligible for the DV Program.
A green card may be issued to legal residents already in the U.S. or those living in other countries at the time of their application.
If you are already a legal resident of the United States when you apply for a green card, the process is called an “adjustment of status.” First, you must submit a completed Form I-485 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An appointment will then be scheduled, where you will be interviewed and have your picture and fingerprints taken. If approved, you will receive your green card in the mail.
If you are living in a foreign country at the time you apply for a green card, you must go through consular processing. Consular processing involves the USCIS, the National Visa Center, and the embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of citizenship. The process begins with payment of the immigrant visa fee bill sent by the National Visa Center, which collects the required fees as well as any Affidavit of Support required to establish a sponsor’s ability to financially sponsor the applicant.
Upon receiving the fees, the Center will send an instruction packet containing information regarding the forms and documents to be submitted. Application content varies depending on the individual applicant, but typical documents required are birth certificates, marriage certificates, and copies of passports.
An interview is then scheduled in the country’s U.S. Consulate. If the immigrant visa is approved at the interview, the person receives a stamp in their passport that serves as proof of permanent-resident status until their green card arrives in the mail. From the time the visa is issued, the person has six months to enter the U.S.
Immigration Document Can Help Protect Foreign Workers in America Foreign nationals working in the United States can oft... Read More
Lately, the news is filled with stories of people like Peter Sean Brown: Brown, born in Philadelphia and a resident of F... Read More
Over the past five years, over 80 immigrants have died in the custody of U.S. immigration agents. Immigrant advocate... Read More
How It Works