Guiding Through the Journey to Permanent Residency: An In-Depth Manual for the U.S. Green Card Procedure

Green Card in USA

How to Apply and Obtain a Green Card in USA?

What is Green Card?

  • The Green Card is an official permit for permanent residency in the United States. It is also known as a Permanent Resident Card. It allows non-U.S. citizens to live and work permanently in the United States.
  • It is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is often referred to as a green card due to its historical green color.
  • The card must be renewed every 10 years, and holders are required to carry it at all times. It is not the same as U.S. citizenship, but it provides several immigration benefits, including work authorization.
  • There are various ways to qualify for a Green Card, such as through family, employment, investment, humanitarian reasons, and special programs.
  • Obtaining a green card in the United States is generally considered difficult due to the long and complicated application process, high competition, potential for errors, and various barriers and costs involved.
  • This article provides detailed information on the green card, including its different types, eligibility criteria, and the application process.

Green Card USA

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility requirements for getting a green card depend on the specific category under which an individual is applying. The following table provides the eligibility criteria for some common green card categories:

               Category                          Eligibility
Family Sponsorship Spouses and children under the age of 21 who are U.S. citizens are immediately eligible. Other family members’ eligibility is based on preference categories.
Employment It requires a job offer from a U.S. employer and proof of the unavailability of qualified U.S. workers.
Investment It involves investing a significant amount of money in a business that will create full-time positions for qualifying employees.
Humanitarian Available to individuals granted asylum status, refugee status, or those who have been victims of human trafficking or crime.

Additionally, individuals who have resided continuously in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972, may be eligible to apply for a green card through a special process called “registry.”

How to Apply?

Green Card Eligibility

The following is the step-by-step process on how to obtain a green card:

  • Check the eligibility requirements for the green card category you are applying to.
  • Someone must usually file an immigrant petition for you. The most common forms for this step are Form I-130, Form I-140, or Form I-730, depending on your situation.

What is an immigrant petition?

An immigrant petition is a formal request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor an individual for a green card. It is the first step in the process of applying for lawful permanent residency in the United States. The petition is typically filed by a family member or employer on behalf of the individual seeking a green card. The two most common forms used for immigrant petitions are Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for family-based immigration, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, for employment-based immigration

  • After the immigrant petition is approved, decide if you want to use the adjustment of status process if you are in the United States or consular processing if you are outside the United States.
  • If you are in the United States, complete Form I-485 (Application to Adjust Status). If you are outside the United States, complete Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application).
  • If you are outside the U.S., attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country.
  • After your application is approved, you will receive your green card.

Documents Required

The following are the common documents required to obtain a green card:

  • Proof of lawful entry into the United States
  • Proof of current immigration status
  • Sponsor’s citizenship
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Financial documents
  • Medical examination records
  • Passport
  • Two passport-style photographs
  • Government-issued identity document with a photograph
  • Copy of Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

The time it takes to get a green card varies depending on several factors, including the type of application and USCIS processing times. In most cases, it takes about two years for a green card to become available, and the entire process takes around three years. However, it may take longer for citizens of Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines due to the higher volume of green card applicants annually.

  • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (living in the U.S.): 13.5–20.5 months
  • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (living outside the U.S.): 13.5–15 months
  • Spouse of a Green Card Holder (living in the U.S.): 13.5–20.5 months
  • Spouse of a Green Card Holder (living outside the U.S.): 33–37 months
  • Unmarried Adult Children of Green Card Holders: 8-9 years
  • Married Adult Children of U.S. Citizens: 13-14 years
  • Siblings of U.S. Citizens: 14-16 years

After entering the U.S. using an immigrant visa, it may take up to 90 days to receive the permanent resident card.


Type Cost
Family-Based Green Card (Within the US) $1760
Family-Based Green Card (Outside the US) $1200
Marriage-Based Green Card $1280 to $1960
Employment-Based Green Card $1200 to $8000
Biometric Services Fee $85

Benefits of Green Card

A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, offers several benefits:

Green card Holder Form

  • A green card allows you to live and work permanently in the United States.
  • It provides the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after a few years.
  • Green card holders are protected from deportation and have legal rights under U.S. laws.
  • They can sponsor family members for their green cards and enjoy easier travel within the U.S. and internationally without requiring a visa to certain countries.
  • Green card holders are eligible for federal benefits such as financial aid for education and Social Security.
  • They have access to plenty of employment opportunities, including careers in national security and federal agencies.
  • Green card holders can also enjoy lower tuition rates for in-state colleges and universities.
  • Green card holders can establish a business in the United States, own firearms, property, and cars like other U.S. citizens, and contribute to political campaigns.
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