How to Apply for a Green Card for the USA

By J.M. Soden
A green card, permanent resident status, the United States
Statue of Liberty image by sival from

A foreign national can obtain a green card to the United States in a variety of ways. Two of the most common methods are applying through an employer sponsorship or a family member. These methods involve different processes but can both result in a successful green card application. Regardless of whether your family or employer sponsors your green card application, the process may take up to several years, depending on your country of origin and your category preference as determined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Obtain sponsorship for your green card. If an employer is sponsoring you, the employer must first complete a vigorous recruiting process to comply with the Department of Labor standards. Then, the employer must file Form I-140 with the USCIS. If a family member is sponsoring you, the family member must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Wait for visa numbers to become available in your category. Based on the I-140 form filed by your employer, USCIS assigns you a category preference. Using the visa bulletin released by USCIS, find your visa category, using your country of origin and category preference. When the bulletin reads that your category is current, you may file your green card application.

This same process applies with family sponsored green cards, except family sponsored green cards have a specific category chart on the visa bulletin.

Visit the USCIS website to download Form I-485 and its instructions. Complete the form. Also, complete Form G-325A, which requests biographical information.

For a family-sponsored green card, download Form I-130 and its instructions.

Assemble two passport photographs, a green card medical examination record from an approved physician and the appropriate filing fees for each green card application. Make sure all forms are signed and completed. Prepare application and supporting documents in an enveloped addressed to the appropriate USCIS service center. Service centers will vary, based on geographic location, and are listed in the form instructions.

Wait for correspondence from USCIS. You will first receive a receipt evidencing that your application has been received, then you will receive a biometrics appointment form. Attend the biometrics appointment and wait for the background check and application process to be completed. Upon completion, you will receive a "welcome notice" from USCIS indicating your application's approval, and you will receive your green card through the mail.

About the Author

J.M. Soden has been a freelance writer since 2005. He primarily writes sports articles but also enjoys writing about travel destinations, legal matters and electronics troubleshooting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in American studies.