How to apply for a Green Card: How Easy Is It?

How to Qualify for a Green Card: How Easy Is It?

The laws regarding applying for and qualifying for a green card in the U.S. can be somewhat complex. Let's dive in.


When it comes to qualifying for U.S. Permanent Resident Card Also known as a “Green Card“, we have to accept that not everyone will qualify, and even if you do qualify, it might take years for you to finally achieve permanent residence status.  A green card starts with an application, called an I-485. Normally, someone else will be submitting the application for you, and this is called either sponsoring or petitioning for the card. But it’s still good for you to become familiar with the process from the beginning.

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Who Qualifies for a Green Card?

Not everyone will qualify for a Permanent Resident Card, but the following individuals can submit the paperwork to get this card:

Naturally, there are other specialized categories of individuals who might qualify to get a Permanent Resident Card, so if you feel like you might be listed in one of these categories, you can always consult with a lawyer.

There are, in fact, many lawyers whose specialty is helping people become U.S. citizens, and they offer a wealth of invaluable information. Feel free to schedule a visit with one of these experts if you have special circumstances or if you simply want to make sure you understand the process a little better.

The First Steps

Once you submit your I-485 form, it may take a few weeks to get it approved. The forms must be filled out properly, but if they aren’t, you will be informed immediately regarding what to do next. For most people applying for a green card, two things will be required.

The first is a biometrics appointment, which is held at one of numerous USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) centers across the country. During this visit, you’ll be required to submit your fingerprints, photographs of yourself, and an official signature.

“The requirements also depend on whether you are currently living in the U.S., or you’re located in another country.”

Once your biometrics appointment is completed satisfactorily, most people will be required to go to an interview, where you will be asked numerous questions that can vary depending on your circumstances and what category you are in (spouse of a U.S. citizen, etc.). With both the biometrics appointment and the interview, the requirements can vary. 

This means that in some circumstances, one or both of these appointments may be unnecessary. This is yet another reason to consult with an immigration lawyer and ensure that you won’t overlook or forget anything important.

The requirements also depend on whether you are currently living in the U.S., or you’re located in another country. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll have to file an Adjustment of Status form with USCIS. If you’re not living in the U.S., you can go to a U.S. Department of State consulate office, and they can tell you how to proceed.

An Adjustment of Status form is usually submitted when you’re in the U.S. and you do not wish to go back to your country but would still like to apply for permanent residence.

Is It Complicated?

The entire process to get a green card usually takes 8–14 months from the time of the initial application, but it may take longer depending on your particular situation. On the surface, it sounds like a basic and simple process, but there are numerous things that might stand in your way while the process is taking place.

There are also different forms that you may be required to fill out and submit, which include one or more of the following:

There are other forms as well that might have to be submitted, but the good news is that the USCIS offices are good about informing you of the status of your application and letting you know what comes next in the process.

How to Qualify for a Green Card: How Easy Is It?

In other words, they’ll keep track of the forms you submit and let you know if you need to make a correction or send them additional information. Even better, you can also create an online account and check your own status 24/7, which is what most people prefer to do.

Keep in mind that because each situation is different, your case might take only a short amount of time or drag out for months. This is why a good immigration lawyer is recommended because they can take you from the initial application to the end of the process, and there are always fewer headaches along the way.

There are also filing fees that might be applicable throughout the process, but even if the form you’re sending in doesn’t require a fee, you have to make sure that everything is filled out properly and completely to proceed.

Our thoughts

Getting a green card involves a basic process that sounds simple on the surface but which can be rather complicated once you get into the specifics. With good representation, this process is always much easier and faster. The lawyers who specialize in immigration issues generally offer a free initial consultation, and afterward, they’ll be there every step of the way to make sure you don’t forget about something crucial to the process.

The lawyers at N400 Harbor Law are there from beginning to end to make sure all T’s are crossed and all I’s are dotted. Getting a green card is something many people dream about, but when you take into consideration the potential complexity of the process, it’s easy to understand why so many people start with the help of a lawyer from day one. It makes it easier and certainly faster, and you’ll get your questions answered and concerns addressed throughout the process until that card is finally yours.

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