How Can I Get a U.S. Green Card?

By Jessica McElrath
How Can I Get a U.S. Green Card?
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A green card allows a non-U.S. citizen to live permanently in the U.S. You can qualify for a green card based on your relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Certain relatives are given priority status while others will have to wait for a visa number. The green card process will also depend on whether you already live in the U.S. or whether you live outside of the U.S.

Ask your immediate family member to complete and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services . This form begins the green card process. As of 2011 the filing fee is $420.

File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status if you already reside in the U.S. This form requests a change in your status to a permanent resident. If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, spouse, an unmarried child under age 21 or a parent, you have the option of filing Form I-485 along with Form I-130. If you wait to file Form I-485, you must also submit a copy of Form I-797 Notice of Action, which shows the status of Form I-130 as either pending or approved. If you are not an immediate family member, then you must wait until a visa number becomes available before you file Form I-485.

Pay the filing fee of $985, plus $85 biometric fee (as of 2011). You will receive your green card after the Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your application.

Move to the U.S., if you live outside of the country, once Form I-130 has been approved and a visa number becomes available. You become a permanent resident upon admission at a U.S. port of entry. You will receive your green card by mail within 30 days of your arrival.

About the Author

Jessica McElrath has been a freelance writer since 2000. McElrath is the author of "The Everything John F. Kennedy Book" and "The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book." McElrath has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.