How to Get a Green Card: Your Complete Guide to Permanent Residency in the US

Obtaining a “Green Card”, permanent residency in the United States, can be an intricate process. In this guide, we will provide you with an in-depth and comprehensive overview to navigate this process with ease.

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that grants its holder the right to live and work permanently in the country.

Benefits of the Green Card

The green card offers a number of benefits, including the ability to work and live in the US, the ability to sponsor family members to obtain their own green card, and eligibility for US citizenship after a certain period of residency.

Categories for Obtaining a Green Card

There are several categories under which one can apply for a Green Card. These include family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, investment-based immigration (EB-5), diversity immigrant lottery, and asylum or refugee.

Family-based immigration

Family-based immigration is the most common way to obtain a Green Card. US citizens may sponsor certain family members for permanent residence, including spouses, children, parents and siblings. Green Card holders may also sponsor spouses and unmarried children.

Employment-based immigration

Employment-based immigration allows US employers to sponsor certain employees for a Green Card. Applicants with extraordinary ability, professionals with advanced degrees, and workers in certain labor-shortage sectors may also be eligible.

EB-5 Investment-Based Immigration (EB-5)

The EB-5 program allows foreign investors who make a significant investment in a US business that creates or preserves jobs to obtain a Green Card.

Immigrant Diversity Sweepstakes

The Diversity Immigrant Lottery, also known as the Visa Lottery, offers the possibility of obtaining a Green Card to citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Asylum or Refuge

Those fleeing persecution in their home countries may also be eligible for a Green Card through asylum or refugee status.

Green Card Application Process

Applying for a Green Card is a multi-step process that includes the initial petition, immigrant visa processing, and Green Card adjudication.

Filing of the Petition

The process begins with the filing of a petition. Depending on the immigration category, this may be an Alien Relative Petition (Form I-130), an Alien Worker Petition (Form I-140), or an Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur (Form I-526) with the USCIS.

Immigrant Visa Processing

Once the petition is approved, and a visa number is available, the applicant may apply for an immigrant visa. This normally involves filing Form DS-260 with the Department of State and completing a medical examination and interview at the US embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country.

Award of the Green Card

Finally, once the immigrant visa is granted, the applicant may travel to the United States. Upon arrival, the USCIS creates the Green Card and sends it to the holder.


Obtaining a Green Card is a process that requires patience and understanding of the US immigration system. Although it may seem daunting, with the right information and guidance, the dream of becoming a permanent resident of the United States can become a reality. We hope this guide has provided you with useful insight to get you started on your path to a Green Card.

Frequently Asked Questions About Obtaining a Green Card

How long does the process of obtaining a Green Card take?

The time it takes to obtain a Green Card depends on the category under which you are applying and the applicant’s location. For example, family-based petitions can take several years due to annual visa limits. On the other hand, EB-5 Green Card applicants can expect the process to take about two years.

Can I work while waiting for my Green Card?

Yes, you can work while waiting for your Green Card if you have a valid work permit. Adjustment of status applicants may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) at the same time they file their Green Card application.

What is the cost of applying for a Green Card?

The costs to apply for a Green Card vary depending on the individual situation. Applicants must pay USCIS fees, which include the petition fee and the adjustment of status application fee, if applicable. In addition, applicants must pay visa processing fees, the medical examination, and any costs associated with obtaining the necessary documents.

Can I travel outside the United States while waiting for my Green Card?

Yes, but it may be necessary to obtain an “Advance Parole” before leaving the United States. Those who leave the United States without this document may encounter problems when attempting to re-enter.

How can a Green Card be revoked?

The Green Card can be revoked for a number of reasons, including fraud on the application, commission of certain crimes, or abandonment of permanent residence (e.g., living outside the United States for an extended period).