How To Apply For A Green Card

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Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card (PDF, 6.77 MB) allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation.

Family Based Immigration


Also known as I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

U.S. citizens or green card holders may be able to sponsor a foreign family member to come to the U.S. on a green card. The three main types of family sponsorships are the following:

This includes spouses, unmarried children under 21, and/or parents of the petitioning U.S. citizen.

What are the requirements?

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. U.S. Citizens and Green Card holders who wish to petition their family may use form to establish their relationship to certain foreign relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. If the relative is inside the United States (through lawful admission or parole) they can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, at the same time. 
  • Filing Fee(s). A filing fee of $535 for each applicant is required. This filing fee cannot be waived.
  • Submit Evidence. Include all supporting documentation. 
    • Evidence to show you are a U.S. citizen,
      • If you were born in the United States, a copy of birth certificate, issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority.
      • A copy of your Naturalization certificate or Certificate of citizenship issued by USCIS or the former INS.
      • A copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
      • A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport or passport card.
      • An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport.
    • Additional required evidence varies depending on which relative you are petitioning for. 

If you are filing Form I-130 for your adopted child

  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship:
    • A copy of your birth certificate, issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority showing you were born in the United States; 
    • A copy of your naturalization citizenship certificate issued by USCIS or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); 
    • A copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate; 
    • A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport; or 
    • An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport.
  • Evidence of family relationship, such as a final adoption decree
  • Evidence you have had legal custody of the adopted child for two years
  • Evidence you have had joint residence with the adopted child for two years

What Happens After You Apply

This includes unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you are 21 years old or older, married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.

The United States has a cap of 480,000 green cards that may be given out to other relatives of U.S. citizens and Green Card holders, referred to as preference relatives. This results to long wait in most categories which can range from three to twenty four years.

  • First preference (F1) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of U.S. citizens;
  • Second preference (F2A) – spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Second preference (F2B) – unmarried sons and daughters, 21 years of age and older, of lawful permanent residents;
  • Third preference (F3) – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth preference (F4) – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older)

What are the requirements?

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. U.S. Citizens and Green Card holders who wish to petition their family may use form to establish their relationship to certain foreign relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. If the relative is inside the United States (through lawful admission or parole) they can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, at the same time. 
  • Filing Fee(s). A filing fee of $535 for each applicant is required. This filing fee cannot be waived.
  • Submit Evidence. Include all supporting documentation. 
    • Evidence to show you are a U.S. citizen,
      • If you were born in the United States, a copy of birth certificate, issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority.
      • A copy of your Naturalization certificate or Certificate of citizenship issued by USCIS or the former INS.
      • A copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
      • A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport or passport card.
      • An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport.
    • Additional required evidence varies depending on which relative you are petitioning for.  Refer to Form I-130 instructions for a list of required documents.

What Happens After You Apply

This includes the spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21,  unmarried son or daughter of a green card holder 21 years old or older.

What are the requirements?

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. U.S. Citizens and Green Card holders who wish to petition their family may use form to establish their relationship to certain foreign relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. If the relative is inside the United States (through lawful admission or parole) they can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, at the same time. 
  • Filing Fee(s). A filing fee of $535 for each applicant is required. This filing fee cannot be waived.
  • Submit Evidence. Include all supporting documentation. 
    • Evidence to show you are a green card holder,
      • A copy of your passport biographic page, and
      • A copy of the page showing admission as a lawful permanent resident, or other evidence of permanent resident status issued by USCIS or the former INS.
    • Additional required evidence varies depending on which relative you are petitioning for.  Refer to Form I-130 instructions for a list of required documents.

What Happens After You Apply

Adjustment of Status


Adjustment of status is the process for applying to be a lawful permanent resident (also known as Green Card holder) when you are already in the United States. This means that you may get a Green Card without returning to your home country.

The timeline for when a foreigner can adjust their status completely depends on the type of visa they used to come here. For example, foreigners who came to the country on fiancé visa can only adjust their status after getting married witihin 90 days of arriving in the U.S. Refugees on the other hand can only adjust status after having lived in the U.S. for a year.  Workers on H-1B visas will need sponsorship from their employers to be eligible to adjust.

All foreigners who wish to adjust must complete Form I-485 and Form I-94 and submit them to the USCIS. The foreigner will then be required to do the following:

  • giving fingerprints, also call “biometrics”,
  • taking a medical exam (except if the foreigner is refugeeasylee, or fiancé(e) visa-holder), and 
  • having an interview at one of California’s 11 USCIS offices

Foreigns may be required to submit supporting documents to the USCIS. The type of documents needed will depend on their visa type. For instance, foreigners with a fiancé visa will be required to produce a copy of their marriage certificate while asylees will be required to submit evidence to prove that they might be persecuted if they return to their home country.

Refugees and Asylum


Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The difference between applying for refugee status and asylum is the procedure.

Refugee Asylee
Person is overseas, requesting to move to the U.S. for protection Person is currently in the U.S., requesting to stay for protection

To become a refugee in the United States, one must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration.

Once the foreigner receives a referral, they will be given help filling out their application and will be interviewed by a USCIS officer overseas to determine their eligibility as a refugee. 

After getting approved as a refugee, the foreigner must go through a medical exam, cultural orientation and seek help with travel plans. After arriving in the U.S. the refugee will be eligible for medical and cash assistance.

There is no filing fee for applying to be a refugee in the U.S.

Rights of Refugees in the U.S.

Refugees have the right to stay in the U.S. indefinitely (until conditions in their home country are back to normal). They are allowed to work (provided they have a work permit) and are entitled to different forms of government support for the first few months in the U.S. They are allowed to adjust their status to become a Green Card holder one year after being granted refugee status. Four years after that, they can apply for U.S. citizenship.

If the foreigner is currently in the United States and have experienced or will experience persecution in their home country, they may apply for asylum. Asylum is a form of humanitarian relief that allows one to stay in the United States until it is safe to return home. Please be warned that an application with no real basis may lead to getting barred from getting a visa or green card permanently.

What are the requirements to get asylum in the U.S.?

A foreigner who wishes to seek asylum in the U.S. will need to prove that he or she has or will experience persecution in their home country. It can be in various severe forms such as discrimination, beatings, harassment, torture and unjust imprisonment. The persecution must either come from the home country’s government or outside forces that is beyond their control such as terrorist groups, guerillas, gangs, etc.).

In addition, the persecution must be based on one of five grounds, including either your:

  • religion
  • race
  • nationality
  • political opinion, or
  • membership in a particular social group.

Persecution based on any other ground does not qualify for asylum. For instance, someone who’s scared to go back to their home country because an angry neighbor has threatened to hurt him or her does not qualify for asylum.

The Written Application for Asylum

First and foremost, it is important to take note that there is a deadline for applying for asylum. You must start your application within one year of entering the U.S. or before your visa expires (if you had one). If you entered the United States illegally, that is not a bar to applying for asylum.

If more than a year has already passed, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may make an exception for you and allow you to apply, but you would want to talk to an attorney about this. Speak to an experienced immigration attorney. Call 877-3758188 to inquire about your case.

Fill out USCIS Form I-589, which you can download on the USCIS website. There is no filing fee for this form. This form is only a small part of the written application process. The bigger part is submitting documents to prove who you are, how you were persecuted or why you might be persecuted in your home country. The more personal documents, the better. For example, an article written about you in a newspaper describing how you were beaten up by an opposing religion or medical records describing the extent of your injuries from torture.

Often times, it is hard to provide such convincing evidence. That’s why it’s important to gather evidence that would describe the general conditions in your home country. For example, reports by human rights organizations, affidavits by experts, and newspaper reports describing persecution faced by people who are in a similar situation to yours are all fine forms of documentation. Your testimony at your asylum interview (described below) will also be very important. Sometimes, a person’s entire case rests upon their ability to convincingly tell their story of persecution.

The Asylum Interview

A few weeks after you submit your written application, you will be asked to go to a local USCIS office for an interview. Non-english speakers will need to bring a translator with them.

The interviewer will ask questions pertaining to the information you provided on your application and your fear of persecution. It is important to memorize all the names, dates and other facts that are on your application. Inconsistencies between the information on your application and your answers may be taken as a sign that you are not telling the truth.

If you have questions regarding your qualifications as an asylee, do not hesitate to call our office at 877-3758188. You may speak directly with an experienced immigration attorney for free.

Please Note: USCIS is Strengthening Refugee Screening

USCIS is implementing new security measures and procedures based on an interagency joint review of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), required by the Mar. 6, 2017 Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.
Learn more about the new security measures and procedures.

Victim Of A Crime


The United States allows foreigners who have been victims of certain crimes and granted U visas to obtain a Green Card. To qualify, one must have entered the country on a U visa and meet certain eligibility requirements. U-1 nonimmigrant status is for victims of certain crimes who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse and are helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.

Visa Lottery


50,000 green cards are available each year through diversity visa, also known as green card lottery. Only citizens coming from certain countries are qualified to apply. Usually, these are the countries that have the fewest numbers of immigrants to the United States.

Applications are being accepted online for only one month toward the end of the year. Certain educational qualifications must be met. Each year, millions of people apply, partly because the application process is free. This makes the chances of winning quite slim.

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