The United States of America offers incredible opportunities for foreigners from all around the world to live, work, and pursue their dreams in the country. However, to live and work in the US without missing out on any of the benefits open to its indigenous and permanent residents, you need to apply for permanent residency in the country. One of the most sought-after pathways to remaining in the US permanently, i.e., obtaining permanent resident status, is through the Green Card, also known as the Permanent Resident Card. It is, however, important to be familiar with how to apply for a Green Card to be able to navigate the process easily and smoothly on the first attempt.
How to Apply for a Green Card
Below is the step-by-step guide on how to apply for permanent residence or a Green Card in the US.
Determine Your Eligibility
The first step in applying for a Green Card is to determine if you meet the requirements that must be fulfilled to qualify for the Green Card. The eligibility requirements for the Green Card vary depending on the type of immigrant visa and the type of Green Card you are applying for.
Firstly, if you are living in a foreign country, you would need to apply for the Green Card from your home country. If you, on the other hand, are living in the US, there are some additional requirements you need to fulfill. You must be in the US while possessing a dual intent visa such as the H1-B visa, which allows you to temporarily stay in the US while at the same time offering you the opportunity to apply for a Green Card in the long run.
If you are applying for a family-based Green Card, it is crucial to have a close family member such as a spouse, parent, sibling, or child who is a US citizen or is permanently residing in the US. The sponsoring family must, however, meet some requirements such as having the financial capacity to sponsor your migration to the US and must be at least 21 years old with a valid US address.
For the employment-based Green Card, you must have secured a job offer. You will need to provide evidence of employment such as a contract or letter of employment from your employer, stating your start date after obtaining the Green Card. You and your employer must also fulfill other criteria before you can be offered the Green Card.
Get Your Sponsor to Petition for You
The next step after confirming your eligibility is to have someone (a sponsor) file an immigrant petition for you. The sponsor can be your family (Form I-130 for family-based Green Card) or your employer (Form I-140 for employment-based Green Card). The petition will be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Green Card fee must be paid after filing the petition. However, in some cases, you might be eligible to file your petition yourself.
Once your petition is vetted by the USCIS and approved, you will receive a package from the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will send you a package containing all instructions on how to apply for a Green Card and all the forms which you must fill out for your application to the country in which you are living. You should, however, note that NVC will not send you the package until your priority date is reached.
Apply for a Visa or Permanent Residence
Once your priority date is current and the NVC has sent you your package, the next step is to apply for a visa by filing the visa application form, Form DS-260, on the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application platform. If you, however, are living inside the US, you will file Form I-485 to apply for permanent residence or adjust status. After filing the application, you will be required to attend a biometrics appointment where your photograph, fingerprints, and signature will be collected. After this, you will be scheduled for an interview at a USCIS office or a consular office to evaluate the information provided in your application and determine your eligibility for a Green Card.
Receive a Decision
After the interview, you will receive a decision on your Green Card application. If your application is approved, you will be issued the Green Card, which will grant you permanent resident status in the United States. If there is anything missing or there are any issues with your application, you may receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). The RFE or NOID will give you the opportunity to address the issues you have with your application. If your application is denied, on the other hand, you may be provided with the options to appeal the decision or reapply.
Travel to the US
If you are applying from outside the US and your visa is approved, the US Embassy will send you an approval package, which must not be opened. You must bring the package with you when you first travel to the US. An immigration official at the point of entry is only allowed to open it and decide whether you are allowed to enter the US or not. Once you arrive in the US, you must file the Application for Permanent Resident or Adjust Status to USCIS. It is the form that will get you the Permanent Resident Card, also called the Green Card. The processing time until your Green Card arrives in your mail is usually between one to four weeks.
The United States of America has a lot of opportunities for foreign nationals with permanent residence or a Green Card in the country. If you want to be able to live and work in the country legally, you need to learn how to apply for a Green Card and understand the requirements thoroughly. By following this guide, you can become familiar with the process and enjoy a smooth application process. It is, however, important to consult official US government resources, seek legal advice, or engage the services of a professional immigration attorney to ensure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information for your circumstance. Remember to be patient during the processing time and provide honest answers in your application and interviews. Good luck!