Steps to Get a U.S. Green Card
Updated: Apr 6
To get a green card, you must:
See if you’re eligible
File for adjustment of status, if you’re in the U.S..
File for consular processing, if you’re outside the U.S.
Go to a biometrics appointment
Go to an interview
Becoming a lawful permanent resident can offer you a number of rights in the United States, including living permanently in the U.S. Before making the important step toward becoming an LPR, you should have an idea of the process of getting a green card. For more detailed information on the steps for obtaining a green card, keep reading.
What is a Green Card and What Rights Does It Offer?
A green card is a card showing that you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S. An LPR has more rights than any other class of non-U.S. citizens. Among the rights that you have as an LPR include:
The right to live permanently in the U.S., unless you commit certain crimes or prohibited acts that make you deportable
The right to work in the U.S. at any job you choose, unless the job is illegal or requires U.S. citizenship
The right (usually) to travel in and out of the U.S. without advance permission. In many cases, you will not be subject to immigration-related scrutiny when you come back to the U.S.
The right to sponsor certain family members to become LPRs
The protection of the laws of the U.S., as well as state and local laws
The right to become a U.S. citizen after a certain number of years as an LPR. Click here to see how long it takes for an LPR to become a U.S. citizen.
How to Get a Green Card
You may be wondering: What do I have to do to become an LPR?
This post will give you a very brief, basic overview of the process of obtaining a green card. Entire books have been written on how to get a green card, and a post of this length cannot cover all the legal details. For further information, go to the “Green Card” page on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Steps for Determining Eligibility and Status
First, ask two questions:
1. Are you eligible to get a green card?
Only certain people are eligible to get a green card. To see if you are eligible, click on “eligibility categories” at the USCIS website.
One category, that may make you eligible for a green card, is if you are the family member of a U.S. citizen or LPR. To see if you are eligible for a green card under the “family” category, read my previous blog post, “What Relatives Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor?”
2. Are you inside the U.S. or outside the U.S.?
If you are already inside the U.S. on an immigration status other than LPR, you must file an application to “adjust your status” to that of LPR. Click here for instructions on how to fill out this form.
If you are outside the U.S., you must request “consular processing” at the U.S. consulate in the country where you live. Click here for information about consular processing.
How to Apply for a Green Card
The steps to apply for a green card vary, depending on your eligibility category. Here is a brief overview of steps common to most eligibility categories:
Usually, someone else (for example, a family member or employer) must petition for you. In some cases, you may petition for yourself.
If USCIS approves your petition, and there is a visa available, file either a Green Card application with USCIS, or a visa application with the State Department.
Go to a biometrics appointment. There, give fingerprints, photos, and a signature. The USCIS will schedule your biometric services appointment and will send you a notice telling you when and where your appointment is. Your appointment will likely be at an application support center. A biometric services appointment is important so that USCIS can have your identifying data on file.
Go to an interview. The purpose of the interview is to determine that you understood the answers you gave on your application, that your answers were correct, and that none of the information you provided on your application has changed since you filed your application. If USCIS requests an interview, USCIS will send you a notice telling you where and when your interview will be. Usually, your interview will be at a USCIS office (if you are in the U.S.) or at a U.S. consulate (if you are outside the U.S.) If your interview is at a USCIS office, a USCIS official will interview you. If your interview is at a consulate, a consular officer will interview you.
Wait for your decision. If USCIS approves your request, you will be allowed to apply for a green card.
The amount of time that this process takes may vary greatly depending on your eligibility category and other circumstances. Immigrants in some categories may only wait a few months for their petition to be approved. In other categories, the wait can be over twenty years.
If you would like assistance in obtaining your green card, the Persaud Law Office may be able to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.