How to apply for a green card (permanent residency)

A permanent resident card or green card is a card that shows you are a lawful permanent resident of the USA. Refugees are required by law to apply for a green card after living in the USA for one year. If you are an asylee, you may also be able to apply for a green card after one year. Learn how refugees, asylees, and other immigrants can apply.


specimen green card

NOTICE: The increase of fees that was due to take place on October 2, 2020, has been stopped by a US court decision. But please check fees before sending in your application.

Temporary order on green card visas due to COVID-19

The U.S. administration issued a temporary proclamation to stop new immigration visas as of April 23, 2020. This order has been extended to March 31, 2021. The Biden Administration is currently reviewing this order.

The order applies to people outside of the USA who have applied for an immigrant visa.

The following people are exempted from this order and can still get visas:

  • Medical workers, agricultural workers and some other workers.
  • Spouses and children under age 21 of US citizens. 

If you fall under the categories, you may receive information from the U.S. Consulate. 

If you do not fall under the exempt categories, your visa may have been denied. You can see the status of your visa category to know more. If you need help, please consult with a legal representative.

People who already have immigrant visas or valid travel documents can still come. SIVs and members of the US Armed Forces can still come.

We will keep you updated with new information.

Am I eligible to apply for a green card?

To apply for a green card, a person must be eligible to do so through an underlying petition. This process is complicated, and your status in the USA may be at risk if your petition is denied. For this reason, it is important to speak to a lawyer or BIA accredited representative before you apply. There are lawyers and non-profit organizations around the country who will help you.

Refugees

Refugees are eligible to apply for a green card one year after arrival. To be eligible, you must have:

  • been physically present in the United States for at least one year after being admitted as a refugee
  • not had your refugee admission terminated (have maintained your refugee status in the USA)
  • not already acquired permanent resident status

Asylees

If you are an asylee, you may be able to apply for and obtain permanent resident status one year after you are granted asylum and you:

  • have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after being granted asylum
  • continue to be a refugee (as defined in immigration law) or the spouse or child of a refugee
  • are not firmly resettled in any foreign country; and
  • are admissible to the United States as an immigrant

Other immigrants

There are many other categories in which you can apply for a green card. You can apply as a family member, as an employee, or because you are a victim of abuse, trafficking or other crimes. Find out who is eligible for a green card.

How do I apply for a green card?

To apply for permanent resident status, file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. You must also have a USCIS doctor complete Form I-693 showing proof of your medical examination. 

As a refugee, there is currently no fee to file this form. You can learn about and download Form I-485. You can also learn about and download Form I-693.

Who can help me?

Legal paperwork can be very difficult to complete without the help of a lawyer or an accredited legal representative. Many non-profit organizations have accredited legal counseling programs to assist you. Please find legal help before you apply.

We provide basic background information to help you understand the process of applying for permanent residence. We cannot actually help you complete your application.

Watch this video about how to apply for a green card using Form I-485

The responsibilities of a green card holder

Having a green card gives you rights as a resident of the USA. But there are responsibilities, too. It is very important to know what these responsibilities are. USCIS says that, as a permanent resident, you must:

When do I renew or replace my green card?

You must replace your green card if:

  • You were issued a card valid for 10 years that has either expired or will expire within 6 months
  • Your card has been lost, stolen, or damaged
  • The information on your card is wrong or has changed.

See other reasons to replace your green card.

How do I renew or replace my green card?

To get a green card renewal or to replace your green card, you will need to file Form I-90, (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card).

You will need to pay a filing fee and a biometrics fee.

Important information about renewing green card

As of January 2021, when you file Form I-90 to replace your green card, you will receive a receipt notice in the mail about 7-10 days after USCIS receives your application. 

The notice is Form I-797 and it will be printed on secure paper. It can be used with your expired green card to show proof of identity and that you can work in the United States. The notice is valid for 12 months. You can use these documents until you receive your new green card.

If you have already filed to renew your green card and you have not received your biometric appointment, you will get an extension sticker on your green green when you go to your biometrics appointment. 

Learn more about the process for permanent residency and what happens after you apply.

The information on this page comes from USCIS and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.