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.
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
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 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:
- obey all laws of the USA and state and local laws
- file tax returns and pay taxes
- support the government
- register with the Selective Service if you are a male age 18 through 25.
- USCIS general green card information
- USCIS green card processes and procedures
- Apply for a marriage green card
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.
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