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Top 10 Questions About Getting a Green Card

Wondering what a green card is? How long it lasts? Keep reading!

For more information on how to fill out a green card application read, “The Ultimate Guide on How to Get a Green Card.”

Do I need a Green Card to become a U.S. Citizen?

Yes.

You can become a United States citizen in one of two ways:

1. Born to a United States Citizen

You may become a U.S. citizen when you are born to a U.S. citizen. This usually happens when you receive a U.S. birth certificate. If you are a U.S. citizen and are abroad when your child is born, a U.S. embassy or consulate may issue a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. In this case a green card is not required.

2. Naturalization

If you would like to become a U.S. citizen, you must go through a naturalization process. You will need a green card to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization.

These are the steps of naturalization:

  • Be 18 when you file for naturalization. (Form N-400)
  • Be a lawfully admitted permanent resident. (Have a legal green card.)
  • When you are filing:
    • Have been a permanent resident (proved by green card) for 5 years, OR
    • Have been a permanent resident for 3 years and meet eligibility requirements to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen.
  • Demonstrate continuous permanent residence.
  • Demonstrate physical presence in the U.S.
  • Have lived within the state or district (in which you are filing) for 3 months before filing.
  • Demonstrate good moral character.
  • Demonstrate belief (and support) in the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Demonstrate your ability to read, write, speak, and understand basic English.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history, government, and civic principles.
  • Take an oath of allegiance to the US.
  • Receive a Certificate of Naturalization.

For more information read “How to Become a United States Citizen”.

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card, or Permanent Resident Card, is issued as proof that you are authorized to live and work in the U.S.

Who is Eligible for a Green Card?

You are eligible to get a green card through one of eight categories:

  • Family
  • Employment
  • As a Special Immigrant
  • Refugee or Asylee Status
  • Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
  • Victims of Abuse
  • Other Categories
  • Registry

If you Apply for a Green Card through Family:

You may be eligible to apply for a green card based on family if you are:

  • The immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
    • A spouse
    • Unmarried child under 21
    • Parent of a child who is at least 21
  • The relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
    • Relative:
      • Unmarried child and 21 or older
      • Married child
      • Sibling and 21 or older
    • Lawful Permanent Resident:
      • Spouse
      • Unmarried child under 21
      • Unmarried child 21 or older
    • The fiancé of a U.S. citizen or the fiancé’s child
      • Admitted to U.S. as fiancé (K-1 nonimmigrant)
      • Admitted as child of fiancé (K-2 nonimmigrant)
    • Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen
      • You must have been married to your spouse at the time of their death
    • A VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) self-petitioner, victim of battery, or extreme cruelty
      • Abused spouse
      • Abused child, unmarried and under 21
      • Abused parent

Apply for a Green Card through Employment as:

  • An Immigrant Worker
    • 1st preference immigrant worker
      • Extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
      • Outstanding professor or researcher
      • Multinational manager or executive (who meets certain criteria)
    • 2nd preference immigrant worker
      • Member of a profession that requires an advanced degree
      • Exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business
      • Seeking a national interest waiver
    • 3rd preference immigrant worker
      • Skilled worker (requires 2-year training/ work experience at a minimum)
      • Professional (requires US bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent)
      • Unskilled worker (less than 2 years of training/ experience)
    • Physician National Interest Waiver
      • To qualify you must agree to work full-time in an underserved area for a set amount of time and meet other eligibility requirements.
    • Immigrant Investor
      • Have invested or in the process of investing in the United States. At least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise or $500,000 in a targeted employment area. The investment must create at least 10 full-time positions.

Applying as a Special Immigrant:

  • Religious worker
    • Member of a denomination coming to the U.S. to work for a nonprofit religious organization
  • Special immigrant juvenile
    • If you are a child and you have been abused, abandoned, or neglected you have SIJ status
  • Afghanistan or Iraq national
    • Served as an Afghan or Iraqi translator for the U.S.
    • Employed by U.S. government in Iraq for at least 1 year on or after March 20, 2003
    • Employed by the International Security Assistance Force as an Afghan
  • International broadcaster
    • Coming to work as a member of the media in the U.S.
  • Employee (or family member) of an international organization OR employee (or family member) of NATO-6
    • A retired officer or employee of certain international organizations or NATO and certain family members

Applying through Refugee or Asylee Status:

  • Asylee
    • Must have been granted asylee status at least 1 year ago.
  • Refugee
    • Must have been granted asylee status at least 1 year ago.

Applying as Human Trafficking and Crime Victim:

  • Human trafficking victim
    • Must have a T nonimmigrant visa
  • Crime victim
    • Must have a U nonimmigrant visa

Applying as Victim of Abuse:

  • A VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) self-petitioner, victim of battery, or extreme cruelty
    • Abused spouse
    • Abused child, unmarried and under 21
    • Abused parent
  • Special immigrant juvenile
    • If you are a child who has been abused, abandoned, or neglected you have SIJ status.
  • An abused spouse (or child) under the Cuban Adjustment Act
    • Must be an abused spouse or child of a Cuban native or citizen.
  • An abused spouse (or child) under Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA)
    • Must be an abused spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident who has received their green card based on HRIFA.

Applying through Other Categories:

  • Diversity immigrant visa program
    • Must have been selected for a diversity visa in the Department of State’s diversity visa lottery.
  • Cuban Adjustment Act
    • A Cuban native/ citizen
    • Spouse or child of Cuban native/ citizen
  • Abused spouse/ child under the Cuban Adjustment Act
    • Must be the abused spouse or child of a Cuban native/ citizen.
  • HRIFA Dependent status
    • Spouse or child of someone who received their green card under HRIFA
  • Abused spouse/ child under HRIFA
    • Abused spouse or child of someone who received their green card under HRIFA
  • Lautenberg parolee
    • Paroled into the U.S. as a Lautenberg parolee
  • Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act of 2000
    • A native/ citizen of Vietnam, Kampuchea, or Laos paroled under the Orderly Departure Program on or before Oct. 1, 1997. Or you are from a refugee camp in East Asia or a UNHCR displaced person camp in Thailand.
  • American Indian born in Canada
    • 50% or more American Indian and born in Canada
  • Person born in the U.S. to a foreign diplomat
    • Born to a foreign diplomatic officer stationed in the U.S. at your time of birth.
  • Section 13 (diplomat)
    • Were stationed in the U.S. as a foreign diplomat and unable to return home.

Applying through Registry:

  • Continuous registration
    • If you have resided in the U.S. constantly since before Jan. 1, 1972 and registered each year you’ve lived in the U.S. you may qualify to get a green card even if you are currently in the U.S. unlawfully.

How do I get a Green Card?

The process will vary case to case. But in general, these are the steps you will need to follow:

  • Someone must file an immigrant petition for you. In some cases, you may be eligible to file this yourself.
  • You must either file a green card or a visa application. File this after your immigrant petition is approved.

For more information on how to apply for a Green Card, read this: “The Ultimate Guide on How to Get a Green Card.”

How do I find the Status of my Application?

You can check the status of your green card application online here. This tool will also let you sign up for text message and email alerts if USCIS updates your status.

How long does a Green Card last?

There are two types of green cards:

  • 10-year Permanent Resident Card
  • 2-year Conditional Permanent Resident (typically through family petitions)

How do I renew my Green Card?

To renew a 10-year green card:

  • Prepare and File Form I-90. Do it online here.

Note: You should apply for your renewal within 6 months of your green card’s expiration date.

For more information read “How to Renew Your Green Card.”

Renew a 2-year green card:

It is not possible to renew a conditional permanent resident card. You must either file to remove your conditions 90 days before your card expires. Or lose your permanent residency.

You can remove your conditions through marriage, Form I-751. Or through entrepreneurship, Form I-829.

Remove the conditions from a 2-year green card here.

How much does it Cost to get a Green Card?

Fees vary depending on what type of green card you are filing for (under which eligibility). And on how much it cost you to get other requirements done. For example, photos, medical exams, and mailing costs.

As of March 2018, if you are filing for an immigrant visa:

  • On a family relationship – Form I-130 costs $535
  • As a fiancé – Form I-129F costs $535
  • On an employment-based case – Form I-140 costs $700

Then the filing fee for Form I-485 (the application for your green card) costs:

  • Under 14 filing with at least 1 parent – $750
  • Under 14 not filing with a parent – $1140
  • 14-78 – $1140 (an addition $85 is required for your biometrics fee = $1225)
  • 79 or older – $1140
  • Filing based on refugee status – $0

What is the Green Card Lottery?

The Green Card Lottery is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

The DV Program randomly selects up to 50,000 applicants from qualifying countries to immigrate to the US. You must apply to be in the lottery and you must be from a country that has low immigration rates into the U.S.

Most winners are from outside the U.S. and must immigrate through a consulate. But a few winners are already in the U.S. and must apply through USCIS.

If you live in the U.S. and win the Green Card Lottery, you must:

  • Have been selected by the lottery for a diversity visa
  • Have an immigrant visa ready when applying for a green card
  • Be admissible to the U.S.

You will then need to file Form I-485 to get a green card.

For more information on the Green Card Lottery, click here.

Do I need a Lawyer to apply for my Green Card?

No.

When filing for your green card you generally have 3 options:

1. File by yourself

This may be confusing and time consuming as you try to figure out what forms you need to file.

2. Hire an immigration attorney

The attorney will help you file your forms. But you will also need to pay your attorney.

3. Use SimpleCitizen

SimpleCitizen makes the application process easy. We’ll guide you step-by-step through your entire application. You will also have the option to have your application reviewed by an attorney before you submit it.

Get Started Today


The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Green Card
Immigration Discussion Board

Updated on January 15, 2020

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