Application for a green card
When applying for a green card or permanent residence, there are several requirements and forms that must be submitted to the petitioner and green card applicant. Some of the requirements include the provision of evidence of support and proof of family relationships, if applicable. As part of the application process, you must pay the registration fee, immigration medical examination, affidavit of support, and other important requirements and forms.
In general, the process of applying for a green card can be divided into two main stages:
The Petitioner Files a Petition
Generally, to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign national must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, or a potential employer. In the case of certain immigration categories, the applicant can independently file a petition without an applicant sponsor from the United States, as in the case of special immigrants, investors, and other eligible green card applicants.
The first step to applying for an immigrant visa is to file a petition on behalf of a foreign national. The petition can be filed with USCIS in the United States, or if the US citizen applicant has legal residence abroad, the petition can be filed overseas if USCIS has an office at the US Consulate or Embassy in the country of residence the applicant.
Filing a Petition in the U.S.
Petitioner-sponsors residing in the United States file petitions at the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over their place of U.S. residence.
Filing a Petition Abroad
Petitions, which can be filed abroad, are limited. In general, these petitions may only be filed abroad in the countries where the USCIS has an office at a local U.S. embassy or consulate. Petitions for certain immigrant classifications can be filed abroad by petitioners who have been continuously legal residents in such country abroad, including members of the U.S. armed forces, emergency cases involving life and death or health and safety, and others determined to be in the national interest. There are special application benefits for members of the armed forces.
Immigrant Visa Number and the National Visa Center (NVC)
The process of obtaining a green card begins with filing a petition with USCIS. Typically, after USCIS processes and approves the petition, USCIS submits the petition to the National Visa Application Center (NVC) for processing.
For immigration purposes, immediate family members, including parents, husband/wife, and unmarried children under the age of 21, are classified in the immigration category called “close relatives”. They do not need to wait until the visa number becomes available, an immigrant visa is always available for them, which greatly speeds up the application process. In addition, the application process for other relatives who are not considered immediate family members but are included in the family preference immigration category, including siblings and adult married sons or daughters of US citizens, takes much longer because there is a digital visa, limitation for them.
Adjustment of Status
Once the petition has been approved, if the green card applicant is already present in the United States with a non-expired visa/stay, and entered the U.S. legally, then the prospective green cardholder may be able to file form I-485 application to adjust the status to become a lawful permanent resident. If the green card applicant is an immediate relative already present in the United States with a non-expired visa/stay and entered the U.S. legally, then the prospective green cardholder may be able to file form I-485 application to adjust the status to lawful permanent resident at the same time as the American citizen file the I-130 relative petition. As part of the adjustment of status, it is required to have a medical examination with a USCIS approved doctor and to file an Affidavit of Support form.
If the green card applicant is outside of the United States then the application process will continue at a local U.S. embassy or consulate in the place of residence of the applicant. As part of the process, the applicant must apply for an immigrant visa, have a medical examination, and be interviewed by a consular officer. If the immigrant visa is approved, then the applicant will receive a visa in his passport in order to travel to the U.S. and become a permanent resident.
Receive a Green Card
After entering the United States or after finalizing the process of adjustment of status, the USCIS will send a green card in the mail.