A Comprehensive Guide to the Green Card Application Process

Green Card Application
Green Card application

Navigating the complexities of the Green Card application process requires meticulous attention to detail and a thorough understanding of immigration laws. 

At Santoskhourny, our team of experienced attorneys is dedicated to guiding you through every step of the process with expertise and efficiency. We understand how this process works and what you need to do to submit a successful Green Card application.

Understanding the Green Card

Let’s first get a little background information on the Green Card, what it gives, and why it’s important for your new life in the US.

Definition and Importance of a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card)

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants individuals the status of lawful permanent residence in the United States. This document is crucial for those seeking to live and work in the country permanently.

 

Overview of the Benefits and Privileges Associated With Green Cards

Holders enjoy a multitude of benefits and privileges, including the ability to live and work permanently in the United States, eligibility for certain government benefits, and the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting specific requirements.

Think of Green Card applications and sponsorship as the next step in your journey to the US. Perhaps you have obtained asylee status in the US to flee from persecution in your home country. LPR is the next logical step and builds upon the stability and security you gained from that asylee status.

 

Determining Eligibility for a Green Card

You must understand that there isn’t one route to take to obtain LPR. Indeed, as you will see below, there are a range of different categories of Green Cards and you must know which one you fall under.

Different Types of Green Card Sponsorship

Eligibility for LPR varies depending on several factors, including family relationships, employment offers, refugee or asylum status, and investment in the U.S. economy through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The USCIS defines the current categories for eligibility:

 

  • Through family members
  • Via your employment
  • As a special immigrant (SIJS, Religious Worker, etc.)
  • As a refugee or asylee
  • Due to being the victim of human trafficking
  • As a victim of abuse (SIJS)

There is a host of other potential avenues including as a refugee from specific countries like Liberia, or under specific government acts such as the Cuban Adjustment Act.

 

Factors Affecting Eligibility such as Employment and Country of Origin

Additional considerations such as employment qualifications, family relationships, and the applicant’s country of origin may impact eligibility for specific Green Card categories.

Green Card Permanent Residence
Green Card Permanent Residence application

Choosing the Right Application Pathway

As you can see from the above, there isn’t one single application process. Your Green Card lawyer can help determine your eligibility and discuss which pathway you should take.

Understanding the Different Green Card Categories

Selecting the appropriate Green Card category is crucial to the success of your application. Common pathways include family-based sponsorship, employment-based sponsorship, diversity lottery programs, and humanitarian programs.

 

Factors to Consider When Selecting Your Application Pathway

Factors such as your immigration goals, familial relationships, employment opportunities, and eligibility requirements should all be carefully considered when choosing the most suitable application pathway.

 

Preparing Documentation

Before you file your application, it’s important to understand what documents and evidence you need to provide. A Green Card lawyer can help you with this, and the USCIS provides a checklist for Form I-485 too.

 

Required Documentation for Your Green Card Application

Gathering the necessary documentation is a critical aspect of the Green Card application process. This may include proof of identity, evidence of familial relationships or employment offers, financial documentation, and supporting affidavits. The exact documentation and evidence required differs depending on your Green Card application type, but it can include:

 

  • Two passport photos
  • Copy of a government-issued ID (with photo)
  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Proof showing your continual residence in the US
  • Proof showing your relationships with spouse/children, etc. (if applicable)

 

Tips and Best Practices for Organizing Supporting Evidence

Organizing your supporting evidence meticulously can streamline the application process and improve the likelihood of a successful outcome. Ensure all documents are accurately completed, translated if necessary, and neatly organized for submission.

Use the USCIS checklist we provided above, consult your immigration lawyer, and we also recommend making multiple copies of the documents and evidence. This acts as a failsafe should your application get lost and you have to resubmit.

 

Completing the Application Forms

The Different Green Card Forms

Completing the requisite Green Card application forms accurately is essential to avoid delays or potential denials. Commonly used forms include Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status), Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), and Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application).

 

Tips and Best Practices for Form Filing

Follow instructions carefully, provide accurate information, and double-check all entries before submission. Any discrepancies or errors could prolong the processing time or result in a denial of your application. The USCIS provides a multitude of checklists and instructions for file completion, and your Green Card lawyer can help with translations and making sure your forms are completed perfectly.

Green Card Lawyer
Green Card Lawyer

Submitting the Application

Step-by-Step Process Explained

Once all forms and supporting documents are compiled, the application can be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the appropriate U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. 

Follow the specific submission guidelines outlined by the USCIS or consular office. The typical Green Card application process includes the following steps:

  1. Choosing the right pathway and Green Card application type.
  2. Gathering the required documentation and evidence.
  3. Filing the relevant form.
  4. Attending a biometrics appointment.
  5. Attending a Green Card interview.
  6. Providing any additional documentation and evidence.
  7. Waiting for approval.
  8. Receiving your Green Card in the mail.

Tips and Best Practices for Your Green Card Application

Monitor the status of your application regularly, respond promptly to any requests for additional information or documentation, and seek legal guidance if you encounter any challenges during the process.

 

Attending Interviews and Hearings

After your application, you will possibly receive appointments for a biometrics meeting and a Green Card interview.

 

Biometrics

As part of the application process, applicants may be required to attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photographs, and signatures for identity verification purposes. 

If you have already provided this information at some point during your tenure in the US then the USCIS may not schedule a biometrics appointment. If you receive an appointment, you must attend it as the USCIS typically uses this to do background checks and keep your records on file.

 

Green Card Interview

Some applicants may also be scheduled for an interview with USCIS officials to discuss the details of their application and verify eligibility criteria. Currently, the USCIS usually interviews everyone who has applied for a marriage-based Green Card, and family-based sponsorships.

The interview is usually scheduled for between 7-15 months after filing your application. You can bring an interpreter and your immigration attorney to the interview. Your Green Card lawyer can help you prepare the required documents and coach you about what to expect during the interview.

USCIS offers who conduct the interviews have two objectives. Firstly, they aim to assess the validity of your application and verify the details you provided. The secondary objective depends on your type of application. 

For example, if you have applied for a marriage-based Green Card, the secondary objective would be to make sure your marriage is real and hasn’t just been used to obtain Green Card permanent residence status.

 

Waiting for Approval

 

Most of the work is now done and you must play the waiting game which we understand can be frustrating. Therefore, it’s vital to know the expected immigration services process, how long approval can take, and things you can do while waiting.

Expected Timeframe for Receiving Your Approval

 

The processing time for Green Card applications can vary significantly depending on various factors such as the applicant’s country of origin, the category of immigration, and current processing backlogs. Generally, applicants should anticipate a wait of several months to several years. We have created a simple table with average waiting times for the different Green Card forms below:

 

Green Card Type Sponsor/Applicant Average Waiting Time
Form I-300 U.S. Citizen Sponsor 10.8 Months
Form I-300 Green Card Holder Sponsor 25 Months
Form I-485 Family Sponsor 10.1 Months
Form I-131 Advanced Parole 6.1 Months
Form I-765 Work Permit Application 6.7 Months
Form I-129F Fiance Sponsor 6 Months
Form N-400 Application for U.S. Citizenship 9 Months

What to do While Waiting for Your Approval

 

During the waiting period, applicants should ensure they maintain legal status in the United States, keep their contact information updated with USCIS, and be prepared to respond promptly to any requests for additional information or documentation.

 

The USCIS is dealing with a backlog of applications across most of its immigration services including SIJS, asylum, and Green Card applications. You can check your official immigration status using the online USCIS checker and your immigration lawyer can help with this. To start, you need a receipt number which you should have received after your application was received by the USCIS.

Lawful Permanent Resident
Lawful permanent resident

Receiving the Green Card

Your hard work through the Green Card processes is nearly done – now it’s a case of waiting for your LPR card to arrive. There are some things you can do while you wait, and it’s important to understand things like validity periods and how to renew your Green Card after it has been granted.

 

What to do Once You Have Received Your Green Card?

Upon approval, applicants will receive their Green Card via mail. It is essential to review the card carefully for accuracy and follow any instructions provided regarding activation and usage.

It’s important to carry your Green Card with you at all times as this is one of the stipulations that comes with approval. Also, once you have your card, you can use it to apply for things such as a driver’s license and Social Security Card.

 

Validity Periods and Renewal

Green Cards typically have a validity period of ten years, after which they must be renewed to maintain lawful permanent resident status. It is crucial to initiate the renewal process well in advance of the expiration date to avoid any lapses in status. Typically, it is advised that you renew your Green Card within 6 months of its expiry date.

Conditional Green Cards or a Conditional Permanent Residence status has a shorter expiry period of 2 years. You can apply to have the conditions removed though so it becomes a regular Green Card with a 10-year expiry date.

 

A Green Card is Your Pathway to Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident in the US

Navigating the Green Card application process can be complex and daunting, but with the assistance of an experienced Green Card attorney, it can be streamlined and successful. 

At Santoskhourny, we are committed to providing comprehensive guidance and support to individuals seeking to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. If you want to learn more about things like Green Card through marriage, the application process, or your rights, please get in touch – we are happy to help.

 

FAQs

Why is a Green Card important and what is it?

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants individuals the status of lawful permanent residence in the United States, allowing them to live and work permanently in the country. It is important as it represents a major step in obtaining security and safety in the U.S. and eventually opens the pathway to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

 

What are the eligibility criteria for a Green Card?

Eligibility for a LPR varies depending on factors such as family relationships, employment offers, refugee or asylum status, and investment in the U.S. economy through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The USCIS has a list of eligibility categories and you must fall under one of these to start your application.

 

Is a sponsor required for a Green Card application?

Sponsorship is required for certain Green Card categories, such as family-based or employment-based sponsorship. However, there are also avenues for self-petitioning, such as through the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category. For the most common types of applications, a sponsorship is required as they provide some form of security and assurance.

 

What is the average waiting time for a Green Card?

The average waiting time for approval can vary significantly depending on factors such as the applicant’s country of origin, the category of immigration, and current processing backlogs. Generally, applicants should anticipate a wait of several months to several years.

 

What work and travel authorization do I have as a Green Card Holder?

Holders have the right to live and work permanently in the United States and can travel freely in and out of the country with some restrictions. The Green Card acts as your work permit so no further action is required. You can travel freely out of the country for no longer than 12 months at a time (24 months if you have a special reentry permit).

 

Can I work with a Green Card and do I need a permit?

Green Card holders are authorized to work in the United States without the need for a separate work permit. However, certain employment restrictions may apply depending on the specific terms of the Green Card category. Your Green Card essentially counts as your EAD (Employment Authorization Document).

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