6 Steps to Getting a Green Card

By James Parker
September 20, 2022

Getting permission to become a lawful permanent resident, also known as acquiring a green card, is the final goal of many aliens who travel to the United States. The process of transitioning from an immigrant entering the country for the first time to a naturalized citizen is a long and difficult process.

In an effort to assist in explaining some of the more complex parts of the process, AAL has produced a short guide for the broad steps of acquiring a green card.

1. Determine Where You Will Apply From

There are two ways to become a lawful permanent resident. These paths depend on where you are applying from. If you are applying inside of the U.S., you will apply for an adjustment of status. If you are applying from outside of the United States, you will undergo consular processing with the U.S. State Department.

The adjustment of status is the process by which an immigrant who already has a valid temporary status. Often these temporary visas are authorizations for temporary workers or other transient immigrants. An adjustment of status can be applied for in order to make a temporary authorization permanent.

Consular processing is a way for aliens to acquire green card status from outside of the United States. Often the consular processing requires a permanent resident or citizen in the United States to assist in bringing the alien into the country. 

2. Choose an Avenue of Entry

Upon deciding where to apply to, the next question is which avenue to use to apply for a green card. There are four main pathways: family, employment, special immigration, and asylum. 

The family pathway is designed to allow direct family members of a lawful permanent resident or citizen to acquire permanent resident status. This pathway prioritizes unmarried children of U.S. citizens, followed by spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents. Finally, the lowest priority for family visas are married children or siblings over the age of 21.

The second most common pathway to lawful permanent resident status is through employment. As with the family path, there is a 5-tiered preference system for determining who received the employment visa. The employment tiers were:

  1. Individuals with “extraordinary ability” such as professors, researchers, or multinational executives and managers.
  2. Professional workers advanced degrees or exceptional ability
  3. Skilled workers, workers with a bachelor’s degree, or unskilled workers for an industry with a labor shortage
  4. Broadcasters, religious workers, medical graduates, and certain government employees
  5. Investors funding a U.S. business that generates a specified minimum number of jobs

These categories can shift priority but in general these categories are used to determine which applicants get work visas.

Special immigration categories are a diverse range of niche categories that are designed to allow specific categories of immigrants to enter the U.S. These categories include immigrants who are recipients of the diversity lottery, visas for religious workers, or immigrants who are nationals of Afghanistan or Iraq.

Finally, immigrants can gain lawful permanent resident status through the asylum process. Asylum can be sought by individuals who are under threat of persecution, torture, or death in their home country.

3. Apply to Enter The United States

Once you have determined where to apply from, you can begin to apply for your green card. Some documents that will be required for this process including your birth certificate, health records, and any other documents as required by the U.S. Center for Immigration Services (USCIS).

In addition to bringing documentation, there are a number of fees which need to be paid in order to process the application. In general, you will also need a sponsor or petitioner who is a lawful permanent resident or citizen.

4. Provide Personal Information

Once an applicant has submitted their application, the process is not completely finished. Afterwards, the applicant will be required to attend a biometrics appointment. The biometrics appointment requires the applicant to submit their fingerprints, photographs, and a signature. 

Once the applicant’s biometric information has been cataloged, then the application process can continue.

5. Attend Your Immigration Interview 

After the biometric data has been collected, there will be an interview. The purpose of the interview is to determine whether or not an applicant is eligible for entry into the country. The interview will explore the personal history of the applicant. For more information about what to do in the interview, check out AAL’s 7 Do’s and Don’ts for Immigration Interviews.

6. Find The Immigration Attorney You Need

If you are looking to immigrate to the United States and acquire a green card, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your options within the immigration system, present your case in the most compelling light possible, as well as deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy and immigration court while advocating for your rights. The best place to find an immigration attorney is Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms allows us to match you with the best attorney in your area. Our attorneys have excellent case records and the legal experience that can only come from helping thousands of clients.

In addition to their legal expertise, our legal partners are also chosen for their excellent client care. We understand the stress and frustration that can come from the immigration process. That’s why our partner firms take extra steps to treat their clients with care and respect.

Don’t wait, contact AAL today for a complimentary consultation and begin your immigration journey on the right foot. 


*Disclaimer: Attorney At Law does not represent all lawyers in all states. There may be differences of opinion. It’s always advisable to consult with an attorney when in a legal situation.

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