Attorney at Law

How to Apply for a Green Card

Lia Kopin-Green
February 25, 2024
Last reviewed by
Joanna Smykowski
March 3, 2024

Applying for a United States permanent resident visa, also known as a green card, can be a pivotal moment in one’s life. It is critical to keep in mind that the process of applying for a green card can be intimidating and stressful, with many legal requirements and procedures to navigate. In this comprehensive legal guide, we will break down the main steps involved in applying for a green card, helping you embark on your path towards permanent residency in the United States.

1. Determine Your Eligibility Category

There are many different types of green cards available. Before officially beginning the application process, it is crucial to determine whether you meet the eligibility criteria set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We have listed some of the most common types of green cards below along with their requirements:

  • Family Sponsored Green Cards: This type of visa allows foreign immigrants to join close relatives in the United States, including spouses, children, parents and siblings. They are the most common type of green card in the U.S., accounting for about two thirds of green cards issued annually.
  • Employment Based Green Cards: Employment-Based Green Cards, also known as EB Green Cards or EB visas, are immigrant visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States. There are annual quotas for EB green cards, meaning that there may be waiting periods for certain preference categories with high demand.
  • Diversity Lottery Green Card: These visas allow individuals from countries with low immigration rates to apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States. About 50,000 diversity lottery green cards are randomly selected each year.
  • Refugee and Asylee Status Green Cards: Individuals who have been granted refugee or asylee status in the United States may be eligible to apply for a green card. If admitted into the U.S., refugees are provided with assistance to help them resettle. 
  • Longtime Resident Green Cards: Individuals who have resided continuously in the United States since before a specific date and who have maintained good moral character during that time may qualify for a Longtime Resident Green Card. 

Once you have figured out when the eligibility category best fits your circumstances, you can move onto the next step and begin the process of applying for permanent residency. 

2. Find Your Application Location

The process of applying for a green card differs depending on where you plan to apply from. If you are currently residing in the United States, you must apply for an adjustment of status with the USCIS. In these cases, the applicant does not need to return to his or her home country to complete visa processing, and instead is able to apply while he or she is present in the United States. On the other hand, if you are living outside of the United States, you will need to apply for consular processing with the U.S. Department of States. In these situations, you are required to wait in your home country until your U.S. green card is approved.

3. File the Immigration Petition

Once you have determined whether you are applying through an adjustment of status or consular processing, it is time to fill out your immigration petition. It is important to try your best to remain patient during these steps, as it can take anywhere from 7 to 33 months to process your application. Depending on your individual circumstances, the exact steps may vary. However, in most situations, a sponsor will petition on your behalf. Your sponsor could be an employer or family member. Before submitting your petition, ensure that you accurately complete all required forms and include any supporting documentation as per USCIS instructions.

4. Attend a Biometrics Appointment

If your petition is approved, you may be asked to attend a biometrics appointment. The purpose of this appointment is to make sure that the applicant does not have a serious criminal record or any prior immigration violations. The process is fairly straightforward, during which you or your sponsor may be photographed and asked to provide fingerprints. In certain scenarios, an applicant may be required to provide a DNA sample, particularly in cases of family sponsored green cards. It's essential to attend the biometrics appointment as scheduled to prevent delays in processing your Green Card application.

5. Attend an Interview If Required

Depending on the Green Card category you're applying for and your unique circumstances, attending an interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may be a mandatory step in the application process. During the interview, USCIS officials will assess your eligibility for permanent residency, verifying the authenticity of your application materials and addressing any questions or concerns that may arise. Be attentive and cooperative throughout the process, answering questions truthfully and providing requested documents promptly and accurately.

6. Receive Decision

Once you have finally completed all of the necessary steps in your green card application process, all that is left to do is wait for a response from the USCIS. If approved, you will receive notification of your approval and further instructions on how to obtain your Green Card. If additional information or documentation is required, USCIS will communicate this to you. It is essential to respond to these requests as soon as possible to avoid further delays.

Bottom Line

As evident from this article, the procedure for applying for a Green Card in the U.S. is complex and lengthy. To ensure that the process is completed correctly and efficiently, consider working alongside a professional immigration attorney. One of our highly skilled lawyers at Attorney At Law would be delighted to assist you in navigating the path toward achieving permanent residency in the US.

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