9 Steps for Getting a Green Card

It’s no secret that getting a green card isn’t easy. Not everyone qualifies, and even those that do can find themselves on a waiting list for over a decade.

One of the best things you can do is to learn all of the steps involved in getting a green card. Making sure that you are fully prepared to complete these steps from the start can make the process smoother and less distressing.

Today, we’re going to talk about what it takes to become a green card holder. Keep in mind that you may also need to consult an immigration lawyer and bring an expert into the situation.

Read on for the nine steps to getting a green card through a family member and becoming a permanent US resident.

1. Check Your Eligibility

As we mentioned already, not everyone qualifies for a green card, which will give you the status of a permanent resident. Some people qualify thanks to something called the adjustment of status. You qualify for a green card via the adjustment of status if you are legally living in the United States already and fall into one of the approved immigrant categories.

Some people will qualify for a green card before ever moving to the United States. They must be the immediate relative (i.e. the spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21) of a permanent resident or green card holder or meet the standards of family preference. The steps outlined here are specific to anyone applying for their green card as a family member of a US citizen or green card holder.

2. Submit Your I-130 Petition

To begin the process, your US-based relative will have to file the I-130 petition with the US Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) on your behalf. This petition aims to establish that they have a qualifying relationship with you that would warrant your green card approval. Once this petition is filed and approved, you may receive an immediate immigrant visa that allows you to live and work in the United States before you get your green card, but this is not a guarantee.

3. Pay National Visa Center Processing Fees

Once the I-130 petition receives approval, the USCIS will forward the petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once the NVC receives the petition, they will send you a Welcome Letter by mail or email that invites you to review your case online. In order for the NVC to begin processing your case for a green card, you will need to pay the Immigrant Visa Application processing fee and the Affidavit of Support fee.

4. Prepare Your Affidavit of Support

In almost all cases, immigrants that qualify for a green card based on family relationships will have to prove that they won’t become a burden on social services. A financial sponsor (often a family member) must file Form I-864 (the Affidavit of Support) demonstrating that they can and will provide you with financial support assuming that you do not find a source of income upon relocating to the US. If your financial sponsor cannot afford this support on their own, they can ask a joint sponsor to submit a secondary Affidavit of Support.

5. Apply for Your Green Card

Next, your petitioning relative can fill out the DS-260, the official application for green card status. This application can be found on the Department of State website. The completed application is then submitted through the Consular Electronic Application Center online, and you must print the confirmation page upon completion to take to your immigrant visa interview at a later date.

6. Submit Civil Documents

In addition to the application, you must submit a variety of civil documents proving your identity and current status. Relevant documents include:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage or divorce decrees
  • passports
  • military records
  • court and prison records

We recommend scanning and sending these documents digitally to the National Visa Center, as mailing them can further delay your case.

7. Prepare for Your Immigrant Visa Interview

You will receive a notification that the NVC has scheduled your visa interview at your designated US embassy or consulate. Once this occurs, you will need to get a medical examination from an embassy-approved doctor. You will also need to prepare for your interview by gathering the appropriate documents, including your appointment letter, passport, DS-260 confirmation, and original or certified copies of your civil documents.

8. Complete Your Immigrant Visa Interview

Your green card application is not complete until you’ve had your immigrant visa interview. Make sure that you are prepared on the day of your interview so that proceeds smoothly. Everyone who has applied for an immigrant visa in your family must attend the interview, but your sponsor or petitioner does not.

9. Learn How to Replace a Lost Green Card

Getting a green card can take years and once you have it, you won’t want to lose it, damage it, or discover that it’s stolen. While losing your green card doesn’t mean you’ve automatically lost your status, but it can present certain difficulties and problems. Take a look at this guide to lost green card replacement.

Follow These Steps for Getting a Green Card

If your goal is to become a green card holder, you’ll need to follow these steps in the order listed here. Getting a green card is a complicated and arduous process, and completing each step the right way can help you to avoid additional delays.

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