Green Cards

What is a Green Card?

A Permanent Resident Card, commonly referred to as a green card, is an official document issued by the U.S. government, giving an immigrant the right to live and work permanently in the USA (subject to certain conditions).

Green card holders have the opportunity to pursue U.S. citizenship following a certain amount of time, from 3 to 5 years.

The United States government issues just over 1 million green cards per year, with 88 million people granted permanent residency since 1820. As of 2022, there were around 12.7 million people living as lawful permanent residences in the United States. 



Who is eligible to apply for a green card?

There are two main categories of green cards – new arrivals, and adjustment of status. Adjustment of status  is reserved for those who already reside in the United States, such as those on temporary work visas. 

There are several routes to permanent residency in the United States:


Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

Sometimes known as the ‘Green Card Lottery’, this program makes green cards available to citizens from countries with low immigration rates.

It makes up to 55,000 visas available each year, and applicants also require a high school diploma or relevant work experience.


Family Sponsorship

Individuals may apply for permanent residency through family members that reside in the United States, through the following categories:

  • Immediate relative (spouse, children under 21 years of age, and parents) of U.S. citizens
    (U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years of age in order to sponsor their parents.)
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. citizens
  • Spouse and minor children (under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of permanent residents
  • Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens


Employment-based Green Cards

  • EB1 (Priority workers, under one of the following groups: 1. Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; 2. Foreign nationals that are outstanding professors or researchers with at least three years’ experience in teaching or research and who are recognized internationally; 3. Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to the United States)
  • EB-2 (Professionals holding advanced degrees (Ph.D., master’s degree, or at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience) or persons of exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business)
  • EB-3 (Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers)
  • EB-4 (Certain special immigrants: ministers, religious workers, current or former U.S. government workers, etc.)
  • EB-5 (Investors, for investing either $900,000 in rural projects creating over 10 American jobs or $1.8 million in other developments)


Humanitarian-based Green Cards

  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Victims of human trafficking (e.g. those on a T-visa)
  • Victims of crime (e.g. those on a U-Visa)
  • Victims of abuse or domestic violence (through VAWA)

Longtime-Residency Green Cards

Those who have been resident in the United States since before Jan 1, 1972 may be eligible for a green card (subject to other conditions).

Other types of green cards

USCIS issues green cards for a number of other reasons, including religious workers, certain Cuban citizens, American Indians born in Canada and more. 


How do you apply for a Green Card?

For those already residing in the United States:

Those inside the United States must apply via adjustment of status. 

In order to apply, applicants should: 

  • Determine which green card category they are eligible for, depending on their current visa and circumstances
  • Check category availability 
  • File an immigration petition 
  • Pay the necessary fees
  • Gather required evidence and documentation to support the application
  • Attend any in-person appointments with USCIS, and submit biometrics when required
  • Receive a decision

Applicants will fill at least two forms, an immigrant petition (often filed by a sponsor on the applicant’s behalf) and a green card application.

For those outside the United States: 

Those outside the U.S. will submit their application via consular processing.

In order to apply, applicants should: 

  • Determine the green card category they are eligible for, for example an employment-based green card, or through family sponsorship
  • File an immigration petition
  • Gather required evidence and documentation to support the application
  • Attend any in-person appointments at the local embassy or consulate


How long does the Green Card application process take?

The waiting time for permanent residency (green card) can range from around a year to 10+ years depending on which route is used to apply. Those applying who are spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens can expect to wait 1-3 years. 

Categories are subject to yearly caps, so only a certain amount of individuals are processed each year.  


How much does a Green Card application cost?

The cost of a green card varies based on the application route used. Applicants must consider:

  • USCIS application fees
  • Medical examination fees (for those outside US)
  • Attorney fees
  • USCIS Immigrant fee (for those outside US)
  • Admin fees (like copying, notarizing, printing etc.)
  • DOL Labor Certification fees (for EB visas)

Explore Our latest Success Stories

LGBTQ Woman from Eastern Europe Starts Asylum Process; Denied Over and Over, EOIR 42-B (Cancellation of Removal) Wins the Day

Got questions about applying for an Green Card?
Get in touch to schedule a consultation with one of our green card immigration lawyers.

Get Started with a

Schedule a consultation and review your immigration case with one of our experienced attorneys.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form. Due to heavy demand, please note that, should you wish to proceed with an attorney consultation, these are by appointment only and cost $400.
Privacy Policy