This articles provides step-by-step green card process and green card application information for those who want to start their green card processing to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
What is a Green Card?
A Green Card, or Permanent Resident Card, is a permanent visa for USA. A green card gives you the status of a permanent resident along with legal rights to work in USA. Once you have a green card, you may apply for USA citizenship after a few years of staying in the USA. The green card does not affect your present citizenship status.Typically, a green card is issued for 10 years, but it can be renewed by submitting a green card renewal application.
What are the benefits of being a Green Card holder?
A green card gives you permanent US resident status, which allows you to:
- Reside in the US
- Buy your own house or property in the US
- Travel between the US and your country or origin without a visitor/business visa
- Seek employment and work in the US without any other visa or work authorization
- Register your own company and run your own business in the US
- Study in the US
- Sponsor family members for US immigrant visas
- Apply for US citizenship after 5 years of residing in the US
Your US green card also gives you the same rights as an American citizen, including all protection from the US Federal, State, and Local laws on par with any US citizen, while at the same time allowing you to also retain your citizenship in your native country.
What are the different ways to get a green card?
There are 5 main ways an individual can obtain permanent residency or green card for United States:
- Green Card through Employer (Employment Based Green Card: EB1, EB2, EB3 Green Card Categories)
- Investment Based Green Card
- Family Based Green Card (including Marriage Based Green Card)
- Green Card Lottery
- Green Card through Asylum & Refugee status
Based on the green card category under which you are applying, your green card application process will vary. For example, most employment based green card categories require an employment offer and a petitioning employer, while others allow you to self-petition (file your own green card application).
It's a sequential step wise process.
Step 1: Labor Certification
Application (ETA-750) submission through your employer to DOL (Department of labor).
Step 2: Petition for immigration I-140
Your employer files Application (I-140 ) to INS.
Step 3: Adjustment of Status ( I-485) OR Consular Processing
File I-485 and other supporting documents with INS, for yourself and family within USA.
At this time you can also file for EAD ( Employment Authorization Document) and AP ( Advance Parole or Travel Document), once you file for 485, you will be required to do fingerprinting.
In this case Step 2 and 3 can go parallel, known as concurrent filing, however 485 can't be approved without approval of I40.
Take consular processing Interview at a US Consulates in your Home Country.
Step 4: Finally
Get the stamping in your passport and Receiving the Plastic card.
Note: The overall process is time consuming, as it involves formalities and a great deal of paper work. It is granted against per year Quota/per country/per category. Originally, a major constraint was that a person applying for a green card needed to stick with the company, through which his/her green card was getting processed, until the green card was issued, otherwise the process would be disrupted, he/she would have to resubmit a fresh application from the beginning. This rule however, has changed: As of January 17, 2017, employers will no longer be able to revoke I-140 petitions from employees who have held them for more than 180 days, even if their services have been terminated.
Green Card Facts
- Green card doesn't mean citizenship. However, you may be eligible to apply for US citizenship after holding green card status for a certain period of time.
- Green card is not issued for life. It is for a specific period, which is normally for 10 years. You need to revalidate it after that limit.
- You must meet certain conditions in order to maintain green card status.
- You will automatically lose your green card status if you stay outside the US for more than one continuous year.
- You must file US Federal tax returns along with any applicable state or local tax returns. As per immigration laws, permanent residents who fail to submit tax returns may have their permanent resident status revoked.
Sample Green Card
Sample: This is what the new green card looks like.
On May 01, 2017, USCIS announced a redesigned Green Card. The Green Card will now be colored green for easy recognition. The Green Card redesign is the latest advance in USCIS's ongoing efforts to deter immigration fraud. State-of-the-art technology incorporated into the new card prevents counterfeiting, obstructs tampering, and facilitates quick and accurate authentication. Beginning May 01, 2017, USCIS will issue all Green Cards in the new, more secure format. USCIS will replace Green Cards already in circulation as individuals apply for green card renewal or green card replacement.
After Green Card
- Retaining your green card
- Re-entry permit (travel document)
- Green card replacement
- Green card renewal