What are the Steps to getting a Green Card?
The steps in the Green Card process differ based on the type of Green Card. However, here is the general application process that most applicants undergo:
- Someone must file an immigrant petition on your behalf (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you). In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.
- After U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the immigrant petition, and there is a visa available in your category, you file either a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
- You go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature.
- You go to an interview.
- You receive a decision on your application.
Green cards can be acquired through family sponsorship, employer sponsorship, investment-based criteria, lottery, and refugee status. Any foreign national who desires to become a lawful, permanent resident of the United States must go through the Green Card process.
The green card lottery takes place each year. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program gives away up to 50,000 green cards annually. Only people from certain countries are eligible, though. The government tends to target countries with poor immigration rates.
The Green Card process is long and can be intimidating for some. That is why having someone who is an expert in Green Card Law can be extremely beneficial.
Green Card Eligibility
Determining eligibility is the first step in the Green Card process. In order to determine eligibility, the USCIS has outlined a multitude of eligibility categories that are used to determine eligibility and priority level.
Filing an Immigrant Petition
An applicant or sponsor files form I-130 for a family-based Green Card or form I-140 for a business-based Green Card. Form I-485 is also needed for those who are already in the United States. The government calls this process an immigrant petition. These forms have been digitized in recent years to make the process easier and more accessible to applicants.
An approved application heads to the National Visa Center. The system gives the applicant an immigrant visa number. Someone already living in the United States is finished at this point. With the immigrant visa number in hand, they’re considered a permanent resident.
An applicant from outside the United States has an additional step. They must apply for an immigrant visa at the American consulate or embassy in their resident country. Once they have it, they can move to the United States as a permanent resident.
The Green Card application process is slow. Applicants may wait months to receive a Green Card
After filing an application, petition, or request, the USCIS schedules a biometric services appointment and interview at a local Application Support Center (ASC) if they require fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. An appointment notice (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) will include the date, time, and location for the ASC appointment.
The biometrics provided during your ASC appointment allow USCIS to confirm identities and run necessary background and security checks.
The interview portion of this appointment is to prevent fraudulent marriages from resulting in obtaining a Green Card. If a spouse is sponsoring the Green Card process, the interview is utilized to provide validity to the marriage and sponsorship.
The Green Card application process can be slow. Applicants may wait months for a decision on their Green Card application. It is important to continue to follow up if you do not hear back about your application, and to stay up to date on the changes in the laws regarding Green Cards and Permanent Residency in the United States.
Having an Immigration Lawyer like Neelam Bhardwaj, who is up to date on the law and the process of obtaining and renewing Green Cards, can give anyone who is petitioning for permanent residency the peace of mind they need.