Looking for love, work, or safety in the United States?
Learn more about the green card process and how ProPrudence makes it easier.
For millions around the world, living and working in the United States isn’t just “the American Dream,” it’s a personal goal. And fortunately, the law makes it possible for these dreams to come true.
But how exactly do you get from immigrant to citizen?
While not impossible, the green card process has some complicated steps. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of getting your green card so you know what to expect.
What Is a Green Card?
First of all, it should be noted that a green card is not the same as United States citizenship.
While the government does issue an ID card (similar to a driver’s license), the card itself does not provide you with any special benefits. Rather, what people call your “green card” is merely proof of your current status as a lawful permanent resident.
Once you have become a lawful permanent resident, you are permitted to live and work in the United States indefinitely—provided that you are not convicted of a serious crime.
Who Can Apply For a Green Card?
The first step in the green card process is figuring out whether you’re eligible to apply.
U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services (USCIS) lists eight different eligibility categories:
- Special Immigrant
- Refugee/Asylum Seeker
- Human Trafficking & Crime Victims
- Abuse Victims
- Long-term Residents
Even these categories are not as cut-and-dry as you might think. For example, not just any family member of a U.S. citizen is eligible to apply for a green card.
If you have questions about your eligibility, it’s best to meet with a licensed Georgia immigration attorney to answer any questions you may have.
Green Card Process
The green card process (also known as adjustment of status) looks differently for everyone, but there are a few basic steps that nearly every applicant must complete.
File Your Applications
First, you must file at least two applications.
This first application is typically filed on your behalf by another party and acts as proof of your relationship with them. For example, if you are a fiancé of a U.S. citizen, your spouse-to-be will file a different form than if you are entering as a refugee.
Next, you must also fill out Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
However, you will likely also need to submit other documentation along with this application, including your birth certificate, results of your medical exam and vaccination records, and evidence that you have financial support.
If the USCIS doesn’t object to any of the information in your application, the next step is to attend a biometric services appointment so the government can perform background and security checks. You will receive a written notice of the time, date, and location of this appointment.
You will be asked to give your fingerprints and photograph and you will also be asked to sign a document certifying that the information in your application was correct.
In most cases, the next step is your interview.
If you are applying for a family-based visa, certain family members must attend the interview with you. The purpose of this interview is to verify that you understood the questions on the application, confirm that all of the information is correct, and clear up any incomplete answers.
After your interview, you may also receive a written request to submit more information. Please note that this request is not optional and any delay in following this request may cause your application to be denied.
Wait For The Decision
The final step is for USCIS to make a decision on your application.
You can check the status of your application online but a written notice of the final decision will be mailed to you, followed by your physical green card a while later. If you are denied, you will be given the reason for your denial.
The entire green card process can take anywhere from a few months to several years, so be patient.
Find a Georgia Immigration Lawyer
The green card process isn’t impossible, but it’s not easy either. That’s why it helps to have a licensed Georgia immigration lawyer on your side.
An experienced attorney will have the knowledge necessary to walk you through each step, inform you of upcoming obstacles, and act as your representative in the event that something goes wrong.
And there’s no better way to find a Georgia immigration lawyer than by using ProPrudence.
Simply answer a few questions and you will be matched with an appropriate attorney in as little as two minutes. Once you have been matched, you will be directed to a secure video chat for a free consultation.
You may only be a click away from living your American Dream!