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How do I Apply for a Green Card?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 17, 2024
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The process for applying for a United States permanent resident card, commonly called a green card, boils down to filing the appropriate forms and documents, and submitting the appropriate fees. Before you can submit any forms, an immigrant wishing to apply for a green card must be sure they fulfill certain requirements as dictated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Each case is different, so it is best to consult an immigration professional at your local United States immigration office or United States consulate.

Once you are certain that you fulfill any immigration requirements imposed by the USCIS, you must start with filing an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (form I-485). Applications are subject to a filing fee and a separate biometrics fee. You may also be subject to additional fees so be certain to read all related documents to ensure you are submitting the appropriate funds. Along with I-485, two color photos of the applicant must be submitted. These photographs are subject to specifications and should be taken by someone who is familiar with these regulations.

A Medical Examination Sheet (form I-693) may also be required to apply for a green card. It should be noted that form I-693 is not required for those who are applying based on continued residence since January 1972 or those who have had a medical exam based on a fiancé visa. Those applicants between the ages of 17 and 79 will also have to submit a Biographical Data Sheet (form G-325A). You will also have to file an Arrival Departure Record (form I-94), which should have been issued to you by the USCIS office upon arrival in the United States.

An Affidavit of Support (form I-864) may also have to be filed. This form should be filled out by the family member who is sponsoring the foreign national trying to apply for a green card. The affidavit of support may not apply to you if you are filing based on employment. If you are seeking employment while filing, you must submit an Authorization for Employment form (I-765).

You may also be eligible to apply for a green card if you are an asylee or refugee or if you are a Cuban national. Those admitted into the United States as a fiancé of an American citizen may also be eligible. This is also the case if your spouse became a resident after your marriage or if your parents became United States residents after your birth.

To apply for a green card as an asylee or refugee, you must submit a copy of I-94 that shows the date you were granted asylum as well as a Health and Human Services Statistical Data form (I-643). Cuban nationals must file I-485 and submit evidence of Cuban citizenship or nationality. Those admitted as a fiancé and married within 90 days must submit a copy of the approval notice and the marriage certificate.

If your parents became residents after your birth, you must submit evidence that your parents either have or will be granted residence. A birth certificate and proof of relationship with your parents must also be submitted. A person whose spouse has become a resident after marriage must provide evidence that the resident spouse has been granted residence. You must also submit your marriage certificate and prove that any previous marriages were legally terminated.

The process of applying for a green card can get complicated, so again, it is best to contact an immigration professional. This professional will be able to help you locate and file the appropriate forms and fees that may be unique to your case. They will also be able to assist you if you have any further questions.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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