How to apply for a green card (permanent residency)

A green card (permanent resident card) is a card that shows you are a lawful permanent resident of the USA. Refugees are required by law to apply for after living in the USA for one year. If you are an asylee, you may also be able to apply 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.

April 22, 2020 – temporary order

The US administration has issued an executive order to stop new immigration visas from April 23, 2020. The order applies to people outside of the USA. Medical workers, agricultural workers and some other workers will still be allowed to get visas. Spouses and children under age 21 of US citizens will still be allowed to get visas. People who already have immigrant visas or valid travel documents can still come. SIVs and members of the US Armed Forces can still come.

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 before you apply. There are lawyers and organizations around the country who will help you.


Refugees must apply for a green card at least one year from the date you are given a refugee status. 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


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?

If you are a refugee, please have your resettlement agency help you apply for your adjustment of status.

Legal paperwork can be very difficult to complete without the help of a lawyer. If you do not have a resettlement agency or immigration professional to help 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.

For more information on Refugee Adjustment of Status, you can call the USCIS customer service phone number: 1-800-375-5283. If you call this number, you may have to wait on hold before getting help.

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 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.

Learn more about the process 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.