How to apply for a green card

What is a green card?

A green card allows people who are not U.S. citizens to live and work in the USA. It is an identity document with your name and photo. A green card is proof of your immigration status as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). Most green cards are valid for 10 years. If you are a conditional resident, it is valid for 2 years.

A green card is also called a permanent resident card.

What does a green card allow me to do?

If you have permanent resident status you can:

  • live and work in the USA permanently without fear of detention or deportation
  • travel outside the USA for up to 12 months 
  • receive federal benefits, such as help paying for education and housing
  • apply to bring your family members to the USA
  • apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years 

Who can apply for a green card?

There are different ways you can become a lawful permanent resident. You can apply if you are in one of these eligible categories:

What are the requirements to apply for a green card?

Each green card eligibility category has specific requirements you must meet.

If you are in the USA
An immigration officer must have inspected and admitted you upon entering the United States. Applying inside the United States is officially called adjustment of status. 

If you are abroad
You must apply for an immigrant visa with your local consulate to come to the United States. This process is officially called consular processing. 

If you are not eligible for a green card, you may qualify for other immigration options.

How can I apply and get a green card? 

Now that you have reviewed the different categories, here are your next steps to apply: 

Step 1: Check if you are eligible to apply

Step 2: Get legal help if you can

Step 3: Find out if you need to petition for a visa

Step 4: File your application

Step 5: Go to your biometrics appointment

Step 6: Go to your green card interview   

  • Most people will be required to interview at a local USCIS office. An immigration officer will review the answers in your application. They may also ask other questions to decide whether you are eligible for a green card.

Step 7: Get a decision 

  • An immigration officer or consular official will make a decision in your case at the end of your interview. In some cases, the officer may ask for more evidence before they can issue a decision.
  • If your application is approved, you will receive another letter with your green card.
  • If your application is denied, you will get information about whether you can appeal it.

Step 8: Obtaining your green card 

You can check the status of your application online or by calling the USCIS Contact Center.

How can I prepare for the green card interview? 

  • Review your application before your interview. It’s best to prepare with an attorney, resettlement agency, family, or friend. 
  • Bring a copy of your green card application. 
  • Bring originals of all supporting documents, including your passport, travel document, and Form I-94. 
  • Be prepared to answer all questions truthfully.
  • If you need an interpreter, you must bring your own and complete Form G-1256, Declaration for Interpreted USCIS Interview. Your interpreter must be:
    • 18 or older
    • speak your language and English fluently
    • someone who is not involved in your case

Information for green card holders

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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.