immigration law - how to get a green card



A Green Card holder (permanent resident) is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly called a "Green Card." You can become a permanent resident several different ways. Most individuals are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States. Other individuals may become permanent residents through refugee or asylee status or other humanitarian programs. In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.


A green card is issued to all permanent residents as proof that they are authorized to live and work in the United States. If you are a permanent resident age 18 or older, you are required to have a valid green card in your possession at all times. Current green cards are valid for 10 years, or 2 years in the case of a conditional resident, and must be renewed before the card expires.


A green card can be used to prove employment eligibility in the United States when completing the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. It can also be used to apply for a Social Security Card and a state issued driver's license. A green card is valid for readmission to the United States after a trip abroad if you do not leave for longer than 1 year. If your trip will last longer than 1 year, a reentry permit is needed.




The steps to becoming a Green Card holder (permanent resident) vary by category and depend on whether you currently live inside or outside the United States. The main categories are:


  • Green Card Through Family
  • Green Card Through a Job
  • Green Card Through Refugee or Asylee Status
  • Other Ways to Get a Green Card



There are many different ways to get a green card (permanent residence). Each category will have specific steps and procedures to follow. Below are some general processes and procedures to help you apply to get a green card either while in the United States (known as "adjustment of status") or while outside the United States (known as "consular processing").



You may be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) through your family, a job offer or employment, refugee or asylum status, or a number of other special provisions. In some cases, you may even be able to self petition or have a record created for permanent residence on your behalf. In general, to meet the requirements for permanent residence in the United States, you must:
Be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
Have a qualifying immigrant petition filed and approved for you (with a few exceptions)
Have an immigrant visa immediately available
Be admissible to the United States




The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the change of an individual's immigration status while in the United States from nonimmigrant or parolee (temporary) to immigrant (permanent) if the individual was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States and is able to meet all required qualifications for a green card (permanent residence) in a particular category. The common term for a change to permanent status is "adjustment of status."

The INA provides an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status. Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible individual already in the United States can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.
Consular processing is an alternate process for an individual outside the United States (or who is in the United States but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the United States as a permanent resident). This pathway is referred to as "consular processing."

Filing Fees*

In addition to Attorney's Fees and expenses, filing fee is $1,070.00 ($985.00 for petition and $85.00 biometric fee).



Consular processing is the method immigrants use to get their green card when outside the United States or when ineligible to adjust status in the United States.


The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status (a green card). An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as "consular processing."




When getting a green card through employment, family or as a special immigrant, you may need to have a petition filed for you. Concurrent filing is generally when the immigrant petition is filed at the same time you file your application to get a green card.




In general, there must be a visa available for you before you can apply for a green card. In some categories, visas are always available, while in others, there are a limited number. Priority dates are given to immigrants waiting in line to get an immigrant visa and determine when a visa becomes available.




You can travel outside the United States after applying for a green card or once you have a green card by applying for advance parole, a refugee travel document, and a re-entry permit.



If you are not a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, you may fall into one of (3) categories of persons who are eligible for employment authorization.

  • Category 1: You may have authorization to work in the United States as a result of your nonimmigrant status
  • Category 2: You may have authorization to work for a specific employer as a result of your nonimmigrant status
  • Category 3: You may be in a category which requires you to file for permission to work


You are required to apply for work authorization and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) prior to seeking work in the United States. The EAD is the proof that you will show to your employer that you are allowed to work in the United States. In most cases, EADs are granted for a (1) year period.



Most applications for a green card require that you go through a medical exam. The immigration medical exam must be conducted by a physician approved by USCIS (also known as a "civil surgeon").



An affidavit of support is a form that a sponsor files on your behalf when you are applying for a green card or immigrant visa. It is required for most but not all categories of immigrants before they can become a permanent resident of the United States. The purpose of the form is to show that you have the financial means to live in the United States without needing welfare or financial benefits from the U.S. government.




A public charge is when a person relies on money from the U.S. government to support themselves. Most immigrants must show that they will not become a public charge in order to get a green card.



Your age can determine whether you are eligible for a green card as a "child." The Child Status Protection Act, often referred to as CSPA, allows certain children who have aged out (become 21 years or older) after an immigrant petition has been filed to still be eligible for a green card through their parents.



Filing Fees are subject to change without notice.


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