How to Get a Green Card

In 2022, the USA issued 280,000 green cards last year for employment-based applicants alone. This unprecedented number stems from a pandemic-related backlog, but it’s also due to efforts by the federal government to boost the economy.

Is now a good time to apply for a Green Card? Maybe, but you’ll still need to go through a lengthy process to get there. 

Keep reading to find out how to get a green card and start your life in this country of fantastic opportunity and boundless freedom.

What Is a Green Card?

The term ”Green Card” refers to a permanent residency identification card granted to non-US citizens living and working in the country. Unless you have a work visa, staying in the USA permanently without a green card is illegal.

Getting a Green Card is only the first step toward US citizenship. You will need to reside in the USA for five years before you can apply to become a citizen.

The easiest way to get a Green Card is via the Green Card Lottery, but this depends on the luck of the draw. All other methods require extensive paperwork and background checks.  

It’s always best to work with an immigration specialist or lawyer during this process.

How to Get a Green Card 

There are several routes toward getting a Green Card. They are:

  • Family
  • Employment
  • Special Immigrant status
  • Refugee or asylee status
  • Being a human trafficking or crime victim
  • Being a victim of abuse
  • Registry
  • Special circumstances

You can find out more about the categories in this USA Immigration Guide.

Steps Involved in Getting a Green Card

The Green Card application process varies depending on your eligibility status. The basic procedure is as follows:

Spousal Green Card Application

If you get married to a U.S. citizen and intend to live in the country, the Green Card application process has three steps and takes about 17 months. These steps are:

  1. Submission Form I-130 to prove your marital status
  2. Applying for a Green Card (Form I-485 or Form DS-260)
  3. Attending a green card interview

In addition, you’ll need to provide police clearance documents, proof of nationality, and financial records, as well as undergo a health check.  

Achieving Sponsorship for a Green Card

Most Green Card applicants must complete at least two forms. These are:

  • Immigrant petition
  • Green Card application (Form I-485)

A third party, called a sponsor or petitioner, must file the immigrant petition for you. In rare cases, you can file these forms yourself. This involves completing one of the following forms:

  • Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130)
  • Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140)
  • Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal (Form I-589)
  • Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition (Form I-730)
  • Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur (Form I-526)
  • Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360)
  • Petition of U-1 Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918)
  • Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant (Form I-929)

Your eligibility status determines the form you need. 

Next Steps

Once USCIS approves the immigrant petition, you must apply for your Green Card with the USCIS (form I-485) or a visa from the U.S. Department of State. Sometimes you can submit this form concurrently with your petition. 

You’ll need to attend a biometrics appointment to provide photos, fingerprints, and your signature, and then attend a Green Card interview.

You usually receive a decision about your application 120 days after your interview. 

Applying for a Green Card from Outside the USA

The Green Card procedure is called Consular Processing if you are applying from another country. You undergo this process after the USCIS approves your immigration petition and there is an immigrant visa number available immediately.

You may apply for an immigrant visa at any U.S. Department of State consulate in your country. You will need to undergo a Green Card interview with a consular official before they grant you a visa. 

The consular officer will give you a packet of information called a ”Visa Packet” if you’re granted an immigrant visa. You should leave this packet sealed until you arrive in the US.

Once you receive your Visa Packet, you must pay the USCIS Immigration fee, which covers the cost of producing the Green Card and the Visa Packet. It’s best to pay this amount as soon as you receive the Visa Packet.

When you arrive in the United States, you hand your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at your port of entry. They will perform a security check and decide whether to admit you to the USA as a lawful permanent resident. 

After this, you’re entitled to live and work in the USA and apply for citizenship after five years. 

You should receive your Green Card in the mail within 45 days of arrival. If you haven’t paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee before arrival, you must settle this amount before the USCIS will mail your Green Card.

What’s Involved in a Green Card Interview?

The goal of the interview is to determine whether you’ve provided the correct information on your application forms. So, they will check your answers to related questions against your documents.

If any of your information has changed, you should bring supporting documents related to these discrepancies. 

In the case of a spousal green card, the interviewer will try to determine whether your relationship is legitimate and not simply an attempt to get a Green Card more easily.  

Making Your Move

What do you think about this information on how to get a Green Card? Is the process more difficult or easier than you thought? 

Achieving a Green Card is vital if you want to live and thrive in the Land of the Free. Immigration is a major life decision and you shouldn’t enter into it lightly, so get as much information as you can before you consider this option.

If you’d like more legal insights on a wide range of topics, keep browsing my website. 


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