How to get a green card

A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows you to live and work in the USA permanently. Find information on the ways to get a green card. Learn about the steps to apply and how to prepare for your interview.

Updated February 10, 2023

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.

Benefits of having a green card

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

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


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 considered a public charge your green card application may be denied. This rule does not allow people who will depend on certain government assistance to get a green card. Asylees, refugees, humanitarian parolees, and victims of human trafficking and crime are exempt from this rule. 

How to apply

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

Step 1: Check if you are eligible to apply

  • Each green card category has specific requirements. 

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

  • If you are abroad, you must apply for an immigrant visa with your local embassy to come to the United States.  
  • If you are in the United States, you must file Form I-485 with USCIS.
  • You must also get a medical examination and include Form I-693 with your green card application.
  • Follow tips for filing your green card application. 
  • Pay your filing fees. They vary by age. Use the USCIS fee calculator.
  • Note: you can also apply for a social security number at the same time. 

Step 5: Your biometrics appointment

Step 6: 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.

Green card interview

There are a few things you can do to prepare for the interview.

  • Review your application before your interview. Prepare with an attorney, resettlement agency, family, or friend. 
  • Bring a copy of your application
  • Bring originals of all supporting documents including your passport, travel document, and Form I-94.
  • Be prepared to answer all questions truthfully.
  • You must bring your own interpreter if you need one and complete Form G-1256. Your interpreter must be at least 18, speak your language and English fluently, and not be 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. We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.