If you’re dreaming of getting a Green Card, becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and eventually securing a US passport, you’re in the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you the path to achieving permanent residency in the United States, walking you through every step of the Green Card application process, providing detailed information and answering common questions about becoming a Green Card holder and ultimately getting a US passport.

What Is a Green Card?

A Green Card, officially known as a United States Permanent Resident Card, is proof of your lawful permanent residency in the US. It grants you an immigration status that confers you with the right to live and work in the country indefinitely. It is a vital first step in the US immigration process and can provide you with a pathway to obtaining a US passport.

Routes To a US Green Card

There are several routes to getting a Green Card for the United States, depending on your eligibility and circumstances. The main types of US green cards are:

Family-based Green Card

If you have family members (immediate relatives) who are US citizens or are green card holders, you can apply for a green card. To apply for this category of Green Card, you will need to provide various documents such as birth certificates and marriage certificates (if applicable).

Employment-based Green Card

You can get a green card if you have a job offer or a sponsor in the United States, if you have extraordinary ability, or if your work is considered to be of national interest to the country. These are some of the options available:

  • The EB-1 Visa, also known as the EB-1 Green Card, may be the right choice if you are a foreign national with exceptional ability, an outstanding professor or researcher, or a multinational manager or executive. The category EB-1A of this visa doesn’t require an employment offer or employer sponsorship to apply. For an EB-1B or EB-1C visa application, you will need a job offer or sponsor. You can find out more in our article EB-1 Green Card Ultimate Guide.
  • The EB-2  is intended for professionals holding advanced degrees or individuals with exceptional abilities in their respective fields and is divided into two types.

EB-2 PERM (Program Electronic Review Management): This option requires that you have a valid job offer from a US employer. Additionally, the employer will need to obtain a labor certification from the United States Department of Labor.

EB-2 National Visa Waiver (NIW): This option waives the labor certification requirement and the need for sponsorship for highly skilled professionals and/or those with advanced degrees whose work is considered to be in the national interest of the United States. You must show that your proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance and that you are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor. Find out all the details about this opportunity with our EB-2 NIW Ultimate Guide.

Investor Green Card

Under the immigrant investor program, the United States government welcomes investors to set up a business and create full-time jobs and, in return, obtain permanent resident status. Family members are also granted green cards.

In order to apply for the EB-5 Visa, you must create at least ten full-time jobs and make an investment in a commercial enterprise. The minimum amount is $1,050,000 or, if investing in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), $800,000. All information about this visa can be found in the EB-5 Visa Ultimate Guide.

Green Card Lottery

Commonly known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Lottery or Diversity Visa Program, this Green Card lottery program, run by the United States Department of State, provides a limited number of Green Cards through a random drawing. To participate, you must meet specific eligibility criteria and enter the Green Card lottery during the annual registration period.

Humanitarian Green Cards

The USCIS, under the Department of Homeland Security, helps to protect victims of serious criminal activity, including domestic violence (or domestic abuse), sexual assault, hate crimes, human trafficking, involuntary servitude, and certain other serious crimes, by providing immigration relief to eligible victims. Victims of these crimes can be eligible for either a U Visa or a T Visa, depending on the offense. As a condition of the T visa, victims of human trafficking must comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency to aid in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting such crimes. Similarly, applicants for U Visa must also agree to help investigate and prosecute people who commit certain crimes, such as kidnapping, sexual assault, and torture.

How To Get a Green Card

The process of applying for a Green Card with the Department of Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) involves several steps.

  1. Prepare the relevant application, depending on your green card category (for example, if applying for an employment-based green card, it will be the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, while other Green Card categories will need different forms). Some Green Card categories allow for self-petition, whereas for others, you will need to have a qualified family member or employer file a petition on your behalf.
  2. Submit the application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  3. Once USCIS approves your petition, you will receive a Notice of Approval. This indicates that your petition has been accepted.
  4. Now, there are two options: If you are already in the United States with a valid non-immigrant status, apply to adjust status (Form I-485). If you are abroad, apply for your green card at a US Department of State consulate or embassy through the National Visa Center (Form DS-260).
  5. Attend your Green Card interview and provide biometric information, such as fingerprints and photographs.
  6. Once your application is approved, you will receive your Green Card, officially known as the Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).

Green Card Costs

The costs associated with obtaining a Green Card can include filing fees, medical examinations, and legal expenses. The total amount can vary significantly depending on your situation.

How Long Does It Take To Renew a Green Card?

Green cards typically need to be renewed every ten years. The renewal process involves filing Form I-90 and attending a biometrics appointment. The processing time can vary but generally takes several months.

Green Card versus Citizenship

While a green card grants permanent residency to foreign nationals, US citizenship offers additional rights and responsibilities, such as voting and running for public office. To become a US citizen, you must first be a permanent resident. Once you meet the eligibility criteria (such as years of residence), you can go through the naturalization process and eventually become a US citizen.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top Residency by Investment and Citizenship by Investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in US immigration.
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and guarantees that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.

Frequently Asked Questions on the US Green Card

Who qualifies for a Green Card?

Eligibility requirements for a United States Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) are based on family relationships, employment, refugee/asylee status, or other special programs. Each Green Card category has its own specific criteria.

What's the easiest way to become a Green Card holder?

The “easiest” way to become a Green Card holder depends on your individual circumstances. For some, family sponsorship may be the simplest, while others may find that employment-based green cards are more accessible.

What are the main ways to become a Green Card holder?

The primary ways to obtain a Green Card are through family sponsorship, an employment sponsor, refugee/asylee status, or the US Department of State Diversity Visa Lottery (also known as the Green Card Lottery or Diversity Visa Program). But it’s worth noting that these are not the only pathways to being granted permanent residence. There are also green cards for religious workers, for example.

What's the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery and how does it enable people to become Green Card holders?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Lottery is a US Government-run program that enables a limited number of people to become Green Card holders through a random drawing. To participate in this Green Card lottery, you must meet specific eligibility criteria and enter during the annual registration period.

How much does a Green Card cost?

The costs associated with getting a Green Card can include visa application fees, filing fees, medical examinations, and legal expenses. The total amount can vary significantly depending on your situation.

How long does a Green Card take to process?

The duration of the Green Card process is largely dependent on the type of Green Card you are applying for.

The time it takes to get a marriage-based Green Card will differ from the time it takes to obtain an employment-based Green Card.

Generally speaking, it can take around one to three years from when you first apply to when you receive your Green Card and become a lawful permanent resident of the US.

Is it difficult to get a Green Card?

The process to get a Green Card can be long and complex, with many rules and regulations as well as many documents to submit. As such, it’s advisable to see advice from an immigration lawyer to help with your Green Card application.

How can I obtain a Green Card without marriage to a US citizen?

To obtain a green card in the USA without marriage, you can explore the following six options:

Self petition Green Card: Apply based on your exceptional skills or achievements.

Employment-based Green Card: Secure employment sponsorship for a green card.

Investment-based Green Card: Invest in a qualifying business venture.

Special immigrant Green Card: Qualify through specific categories, like religious workers or Iraq/Afghanistan nationals.

Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Green Card: Participate in the annual diversity visa lottery.

Family-based Green Card (Non-Marriage): Obtain a green card through eligible family relationships other than marriage.

To obtain a Green Card, most applicants must submit two forms: an immigrant petition and an application for a Green Card (Form I-485). Typically, someone else, often referred to as a sponsor, files the petition for you. However, in certain cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.

How can I apply for a Green Card if I am undocumented?

Undocumented individuals seeking to obtain a green card (permanent residence) while in the United States illegally may be eligible under specific conditions:

  • Entered the United States prior to January 1, 1972.
    Maintained continuous residency in the United States since their initial entry.
  • Demonstrated good moral character.
  • Are not disqualified for naturalization (citizenship).
  • Are not subject to removal (deportation) under Section 237(a)(4)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • Do not fall under inadmissibility criteria outlined in Section 212(a)(3)(E) of the INA or as a criminal, procurer, other immoral person, subversive, violator of the narcotics laws, or noncitizen smuggler.

What are the eligibility requirements to become a permanent resident of the United States?

To become a permanent resident of the US, you must meet specific eligibility criteria, including family ties or specialized skills sought by the US labor market.

What is the significance of the visa bulletin in the US Green card application process?

The visa bulletin, issued monthly by the US Department of State, serves as a guide for determining the availability of immigrant visas for various categories of applicants. It indicates when individuals from specific countries and visa preference categories can proceed with the next steps in their Green card application process.

How long does it take to get a Green Card through marriage?

The processing time for a marriage-based Green Card can vary depending on several factors, but it typically takes around 16.5 months. This timeframe is based on data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). According to their website, the current processing time for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is between 12.5 and 20.5 months for spouses of US citizens and between 32 and 67.5 months for spouses of lawful permanent residents.