Green Card Application FAQs

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 Common Questions about the Green Card Application Process

A green card, also known as a permanent visa, is a type of immigration document issued to persons who have been granted Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. A lawful permanent resident is not a full U.S. citizen. However, green card holders have many rights, such as:

  • The right to work in the U.S.
  • The right to live permanently in the U.S.
  • The right to apply for educational financial aid
  • The right to start a business

There are three basic avenues through which an immigrant can obtain a green card:

  • Employment
  • Marriage
  • Through a relative

Where Can I Get a Green Card Application?

Green card applications are available for free online. They may be downloaded through the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

How Much Does It Cost?

The green card application should not cost anything. However, there are filing fees associated with each type of green card form. An application will not be considered unless the filing fee is paid.

The main green card application document is Form I-485. This form is called the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.” The filing fee is $985. If biometric data is required, there is an $85 fee, bringing the total filing fees to $1,070.

There are also filing fees associated with every green card-related form that must be submitted. Filing fees may vary by green card category.

Some other green-card based filing fees include:

  • Form I-698, “Petition to Change Status from Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident”: $1,020
  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: $420
  • Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé: $340
  • Form I-90, Petition to Replace Green Card: $365

Finances can be a major factor in immigration matters, making it very important to be prepared for the basic fees as well as any extra additional costs.

Are There Fee Waivers Available?

Form I-912 “Request for Fee Waiver” is available for certain green card applications.
Not all applicants qualify for a fee waiver. To be eligible for a fee waiver, several requirements must be met, including having a household income below the poverty level or other types of extreme financial hardship.

What Else Is Involved?

A person filling out a green card application needs to fulfill three basic requirements:

  • They must have a U.S. citizen petition them, such as an employer or relative
  • They must file their green card application at a U.S. consular office or embassy
  • They must meet all the requirements for admissibility.

After meeting these basic requirements, the applicant may then have several follow-up steps, such as interviews and submitting additional information. For example, most green card applicants will be asked to provide supplemental documentation, such as a valid passport, photographs, birth certificates, marriage or divorce documents, proof of financial income, and medical exam reports.

What is the Difference Between an “Immigrant” and a “Non-Immigrant” Visa?

Immigrant visas are given to people who intend to stay in the United States permanently. Non-immigrant visas are given to people who intend to stay temporarily, such as for educational purposes or to obtain medical treatment.

What Happens if I Overstay My Visa?

If you stay in the United States longer than your visa permits, you could be deported and barred from seeking a visa again in the future. If your visa is about to expire, you may be able to apply for an extension through USCIS.

Can I Renew My Visa or Apply for Another Visa After it Expires?

Typically, you cannot renew your visa unless you applied for an extension before it expired.

How Long Will My Green Card Remain Valid?

Green cards remain valid indefinitely but must be renewed once every ten years.

Can I Apply for a Green Card if I Do Not Have an Immigrant Visa?

In some circumstances, people can apply for a green card even if they do not have an immigrant visa. There are “humanitarian” green cards awarded to refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, and other victims of violent crime. There is a “diversity lottery” which randomly awards up to 50,000 people per year with Green Cards.

If I Have a Child Who is a U.S. Citizen, Can I Obtain Legal Status in the U.S.?

Potentially. Your child with U.S. citizenship must be at least 21 before they can petition on your behalf.

What Does it Mean to be a “Legal Permanent Resident”?

If you are a legal permanent resident, you can remain in the United States indefinitely, even though you are not a citizen. You may work in any profession, and you receive the full protection of U.S. law.

Can I Be Deported as a Legal Permanent Resident?

You can be deported as a legal permanent resident if you commit a “crime of moral turpitude.” A crime of moral turpitude is defined as a crime that is “done recklessly or with evil intent, and which shocks the public conscience as inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between people or to society in general.”

Can I Still Receive a Green Card if I Had a Prior Apprehension at the Border?

Speak to an immigration attorney to do a Freedom of Information Act request to find out more information about your type of apprehension.

I Am Separated From My Spouse/ In a Divorce. What Should I Do?

If you are separated or currently in the process of getting a divorce, you must include your spouse in your application. If you are still legally married at the time the application is submitted, your spouse must be included in the application.

You will need to provide proof of your divorce at a later date. Even if you are still married when you win a green card, it is not required that your spouse accepts the green card. You must inform the U.S. authorities that you intend to travel to the U.S. alone.

What Happens if I Don’t Want to Move to the U.S. Right Away?

Generally, a green card is permanent and valid for a lifetime. It must be renewed after 10 years, but this is only a formality. On your first trip to the U.S., you are not required to stay for a long time. Theoretically, you can enter the USA and stay for only one day.

A green card is not meant to be stored away until you need it. You should be prepared to spend more time in the U.S. for a few years after receiving the green card. Until you are ready to completely move to the U.S., you must travel to the U.S. at least once every 364 days. If applied for, you may spend two years outside of the U.S. without losing your status. After three years, you should decide whether you want to permanently move to the U.S.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

Even though there are forms and guides available online, applying for a green card can still be incredibly confusing. A lawyer can help guide you through the process, making it much easier and clearer. By hiring an immigration lawyer, you can avoid costly errors and ensure you do not miss any deadlines or any requirements.


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