In our last article, we talked about who was eligible for a Green Card. Now, we will talk about the process of obtaining a Green Card in the United States. The following information is general information we offer at no cost, but it should NOT be taken or used as legal advice.
The Application Process
In general, the application process involves these five steps:
- Someone files an immigrant petition on your behalf. As indicated in Part 1, in some cases you may be allowed to file an immigrant petition on your own behalf.
- Once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your immigrant petition, if there is a visa available in your category, you file either a Green Card application with the USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
- You have a biometrics appointment to provide your fingerprints, photos, and your signature.
- You have an interview appointment.
- You receive a decision on your immigrant application.
The process of applying for your Green Card will vary somewhat depending on:
- Whether you apply for “adjustment of status” (for those in the U.S.) or for consular processing (for those outside of the U.S.), and
- The Green Card category for your application.
Adjustment of Status Processing
Adjustment of status is the process you can use to apply for your Green Card when you are present in the U.S. without having to return to your home country to complete the processing of your visa application. If you are outside of the U.S, you must obtain your visa through consular processing in your country. Here is how adjustment of status generally works:
- Determine if you are eligible to apply for a Green Card. The first step in the adjustment of status process is to determine if you fit into a specific immigrant category. You can refer to Part 1 or go to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website to see who’s eligible.
- File an immigrant petition and a Green Card application. Most applicants require a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident (LPR), or employer to act as a sponsor in filing their petition. You may be able to file without a sponsor if you qualify under one of the exceptions cited in Part 1. (The applicable forms are available on the USCIS website.) Most categories require an approved immigrant petition before you can file a Green Card application. However, some categories permit concurrent filing, i.e., filing the Green Card application when the immigrant petition is filed or while the immigrant petition is pending. Some other categories do not require an immigrant petition at all to file a Green Card application, e.g., Cuban Adjustment Act.
- Check visa availability for your category (if applicable). In general, you may not file your Green Card application until a visa is available in your category. For information on visa availability, go to the USCIS website (Visa Availability and Priority Dates page and the Adjustment of Status Filing Charts page) and to the Department of State website (Visa Bulletin page). For exceptions to the visa availability requirement, please check your specific immigrant category for more information.
- File your Green Card application – Form I-485. If you are in the United States and are eligible for adjustment of status, you may file a Form I-485. Go to the USCIS website (Form I-485 instructions page and the immigrant category page) for instructions on completing your application for filing with USCIS.
- Go to your Application Support Center appointment. You will receive a notice form USCIS for your biometrics services appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). There, you will provide your fingerprints, a photograph, and/or signature. These biometrics are used to verify your identity and conduct required background and security checks. Go to the USCIS website’s Preparing for Your Biometrics Services Appointment page for more information.
- Go to your interview (if applicable). The USCIS will review your case to determine whether an interview is necessary. If you are required to appear to answer questions under oath or to provide an affirmation regarding your application, they will send you a notice with the date, time, and location of the interview. If you have an interview, you will be required to produce originals of all documentation submitted with your Green Card application, including passports, official travel documents, and Form I-94, regardless of whether these documents are expired. You must also provide any additional documentation that USCIS requests.
- Check your case status. To check you case status online, go to the USCIS’s check your case status online page or call the USCIS Contact Center at (800) 375-5283.
- Receive a decision. When USCIS makes a decision on your application, they will send you a written decision notice. A Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) usually arrives shortly after an approval notice. A denial includes its reasoning and a statement of whether the decision may be appealed.
Rights of Green Card Holders
Green Card holders have the right to live and work permanently in the U.S. They are protected by all laws of the United States, the state of their residence, and their local city rules. In addition, they have the right to petition for certain family members like spouses or unmarried children to immigrate to the U.S. as well.
Applying for Permanent Resident Status is both lengthy and complicated, and in a matter of such importance, you would be well-served to have a trusted legal advisor at your side to avoid the many potential pitfalls along the way. For over 60 years, our team of New York immigration attorneys at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP, has helped people and businesses with U.S. immigration issues throughout the world. You can ask questions about Green Cards and visas by contacting us online or by calling 212-203-4795 today.