Green Cards

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Understanding how to apply for a green card is not always straightforward. Not everyone is eligible for a green card.

The US government issued close to 200,000 green cards in 2021. Most people know that obtaining a green card is a necessary step for living and working in the US permanently. However, the process of getting a green card is often confusing.

At N400 Harbor Immigration Law, we specialize in assisting with immigration to the US, which is why we compiled the following guide on how to apply for a green card. Keep reading to learn more.

Table of Contents

What is a Green Card?

A green card allows individuals to permanently work and live in the United States. The green card is officially called the Permanent Resident Card.

After you receive a green card, you are considered a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The card received the nickname “green card” due to the greenish color used in its original design. It acts as a form of identification for LPRs and includes the following information:

As a Permanent Resident Card holder, you gain certain rights and responsibilities. You gain the right to reside permanently in the US. You can also join and serve in the US armed forces, work anywhere in the US, and petition for family members to immigrate to the US.

The green card is officially called the Permanent Resident Card.

You must also obey all US laws, including local and state laws. Permanent residents must also file income tax returns and report their income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Males between the ages of 18 and 25 must also register with the Selective Service System, which is also known as the military draft system.

How to Apply for a Green Card

Applying for a green card involves several steps:

  1. Obtain an immigrant visa
  2. Have someone file an immigrant petition
  3. Review your green card eligibility
  4. Apply for a green card with the USCIS or a US consulate

Help is also available. If you need assistance navigating these steps, contact us at N400 Harbor Immigration Law. We help individuals, organizations, and businesses obtain visas, Permanent Resident Cards, and US citizenship. Contact us for assistance or keep reading for more information.

Step 1

Obtain an Immigrant Visa

Step 2

Have someone file an immigrant petition

Step 3

Review your green card eligibility

Step 4

Apply for a green card with the USCIS

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Obtain an Immigrant Visa

Permanent Resident Card are only issued to those who already have an immigrant visa. Immigrant visas are intended for those that want to live and work permanently in the US. It is the first step in the path to becoming a US citizen.

Eligibility for immigrant visas is typically restricted to spouses and children of US citizens and permanent immigrants, researchers, investors, and certain categories of skilled workers.

Individuals with nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, may apply for a green card if they meet the eligibility requirements for an immigrant visa.

Have Someone File an Immigrant Petition

How to Apply for a Green Card: Obtain an Immigrant Visa

Obtaining a Permanent Resident Card also requires someone to file a petition on your behalf. There are several categories of immigrant petitions:

  1. Family-based immigrant petition (Form I-130)
  2. Employment-based immigrant petition (Form I-140)
  3. Special immigrant categories (Form I-360)

If you have a family member or spouse who is a US citizen, then that person may file a petition for an alien relative. The petitioner typically files the petition with the USCIS in the US. 

US employers may file petitions for alien workers. The workers must meet the immigrant visa requirements. If you are an entrepreneur who plans on investing a large amount of money in the US, you may file a petition for yourself using Form I-526 (immigrant petition by an alien entrepreneur).

Individuals who are applying for green cards through humanitarian programs do not need an immigrant petition. This group includes qualifying asylum seekers and refugees.

Review Your Permanent Resident Card Eligibility

Green card eligibility depends on a variety of factors, including your reason for moving to the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows the US to issue up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas each year. Many of those granted green cards have immediate relatives in the US.

A spouse, child, or orphan adopted by a US citizen is often eligible for a green card. However, the US also accepts applications for other categories.

You may obtain a green card through

  1. Family
  2. Employment
  3. Refugee status
  4. Green card lottery
  5. Other categories

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you may file the necessary documents and forms with the USCIS. For immigrants outside of the US, you must apply for a green card through a US consulate office.

Obtaining a Green Card Through Family

Obtaining a green card through a connection to a family member is the most common path toward lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. You may qualify to apply for a green card if you are:

  1. The spouse of a US citizen
  2. An unmarried child of a US citizen and under the age of 21
  3. A parent of a US citizen and at least 21 years of age

If you are not a spouse or child of a US citizen, you may apply under the family-based preference categories. This option is available to brothers, sisters, and married sons or daughters of US citizens. However, eligibility depends on the number of available green cards for the year.

Getting a Green Card for Employment

Immigrant workers receive preference for their green card applications based on the type of work that they plan on engaging in. Professors, researchers, executives, and those with extraordinary abilities in the sciences and arts receive the highest priority.

Second preference immigrant workers include members of professions that require an advanced degree. Third preference immigrant workers include skilled workers with at least two years of experience or training and unskilled workers with less than two years of experience.

Use the Form I-140 to petition for a worker who is not a U.S. citizen to become a permanent resident of the United States

Green Cards for Refugees and Special Immigrants

Religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, refugees, and those from certain countries may be eligible to apply for green cards.

For example, Afghanistan and Iraq nationals who worked as translators and interpreters for the US government may be eligible for a green card.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

The US government issues 55,000 immigrant visas per year through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (Green Card Lottery). Most recipients of the DV program reside outside of the United States, particularly in countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

To win entry to the US via the DV program, you need to submit an entry. You can submit the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E-DV Entry Form) online or visit a US consulate.

Apply for a Green Card with the USCIS or a US Consulate

How to apply for a green card also depends on whether you are currently in the United States or another country. If you are in the US on an immigrant visa, you can file an adjustment of status with the USCIS.

An adjustment of status requires Form I-485 and an approved immigrant petition. The USCIS will review your application and set up an interview. If you meet the requirements, the card will be issued, allowing you to legally reside and work in the US.

If you do not already have a petition, you may qualify to file the petition and Form I-485 at the same time. This is called concurrent filing and only applies to specific individuals, such as immediate relatives of US citizens and those with special immigrant status.

How Long Does a Green Card Last?



Green cards remain valid for 10 years if you comply with the restrictions and requirements related to work and travel. You can apply for US citizenship three or five years after obtaining a green card.

If you obtain a green card through a US spouse, you may apply for citizenship after three years. All other green card holders may apply for citizenship after five years.

If you do not apply for citizenship, you should begin the green card renewal process about six months before the listed expiration date. You do not lose LPR status when the green card expires but may experience trouble reentering the US if you travel with an expired card.

How Long Does a Green Card Last

Obtaining a green card is a requirement if you want to permanently work and live in the United States. Without a green card, you have no guarantee of staying in the country. A nonimmigrant visa is not enough to stay in the US indefinitely.

Green cards are issued to those who meet the requirements for an immigrant visa. You may need a relative, spouse, or employer to file a petition on your behalf. If you are already in the US, you can apply for a green card by filing for an adjustment of status. If you are not in the US, you need to visit a US consulate office.

For more information on how to apply for a green card, contact the experts at N400 Harbor Immigration Law.
We are a full-service immigration law firm in Pompano Beach, Florida. We have extensive experience helping individuals obtain visas and green cards.

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