How to Get an American Green Card

Green Cards are immigration documents which are only used in the United States to indicate that the holder is a permanent resident of the US. Permanent residency is an immigration status that allows a newcomer to America to live, work, study and travel throughout the country.

There are some rights that are not available to permanent residents, such as voting. However, after a period of time, permanent residents are allowed to apply for citizenship and the full rights that such a status entails.


The first step to immigrating to the United States and getting a green card is determining how you will apply. There are a variety of situations where you can apply for immigration, but the most popular are the following:

  • Family-Based—if you have a relative already in the United States and they are either a citizen or a permanent resident you may be able to immigrate to the US. Closer relatives are preferred over more distant relatives. Spouses or children often are not subjected to wait times, however, siblings or parents may have to wait for many years to immigrate with this path.
  • Employment-Based—if you have particularly special experience or education in an in-demand field you may be able to have a US company sponsor your immigration to the United States. There are limited numbers of visas given out for this category and there are often waiting periods that last for years.

Immigrants who do not qualify for the above two categories or do not wish to wait in the queue may choose to participate in the Green Card Lottery. The lottery is held every year in May where applicants (who applied the previous October) are selected to immigrate to the United States. This is often the easiest and fastest way for immigrants to come to the united States. However, there are limited visa numbers for this program as well and that should be taken into consideration before applying for the program.

Adjustment of Status

After your immigration petition has been completed and your visa number has come up you can then apply for adjustment of status.

Note: the immigration petition is the form you file to ask the government if you are eligible to have a green card and is part of that determination.

Applying for adjustment of status will only really occur if you are already present in the United States. The form, I-485, should be filed at a local USCIS field office. Be sure to check the online registry to ensure that you are sending your form and the appropriate fees to the correct office.