A green card is a permanent resident card that the United States government issues to immigrants. A green card will allow you to live and work permanently in the United States. The process to obtain a green card can be complex and long. Below is some basic information that should help you have an idea of what to expect if you are trying to obtain a green card.

What is the Process for Obtaining a Green Card?

While the process for obtaining a green card and lawful permanent resident status can vary depending on your situation, the majority of applicants will go through the following steps:

  • An immigrant petition will be filed by your immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen or by an employer. While these are the most common ways that filing is achieved, there are a few other special circumstances for filing that are listed on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website;
  • The USCIS must approve your petition;
  • You must obtain a visa number;
  • You will file a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State;
  • You have an appointment where you will provide fingerprints, photographs and a signature;
  • An interview is conducted where you will be required to bring various documents. What you need to bring will depend on your situation; and
  • A decision on your application is issued.

If you have a unique situation, the process for obtaining a green card will be different and more complex. Some examples of other situations where you may apply for a green card are if you are a refugee, human trafficking victim or abuse victim.

It is also important to know that if you have any criminal charges on your record, this may weaken your chances of obtaining a green card.

What Happens After I Receive a Green Card?

After you receive a green card, you will be considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States. You will be required to carry your green card with you at all times. In addition, after 10 years you have to renew your green card by submitting a Form I-90 to the USCIS.

If you have only been granted a 2-year conditional green card, you will not be able to renew it. Instead, you will need to file a petition to change your “conditional” status during the 90 days before your 2-year card expires. If you do not do this, you will not be considered a resident of the United States.

Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?

Applying for a green card can often be a long and take time, but typically it is straight forward and can be started independently. However, sometimes you will need help from a lawyer, especially if you are in a complicated situation. Everything will need to be done as the government requires in order for you to obtain a green card and permanent resident status, and depending on the situation it might take more steps.

The information above is just a snapshot of what the process will entail. As such, an immigration attorney near you can help you file your application and keep you informed of any changes to immigration laws or policies. An attorney can also explain exactly what needs to be done to obtain a green card in your specific situation.