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Permanent Residency (Green Card)


Green Cards

^ What do I need to apply for a green card?

Whether you can obtain permanent residency (green card) depends on many factors, not all of which can be fully detailed here. The first hurdle is your ability to enter the United States in the first place. This requires that you do not have one of a number of listed communicable diseases, a certain kind of criminal history, or other special circumstances that would bar you from entry.

In general, individuals seeking green cards through their qualified family member, a job offer or employment, or a special category will generally be classified in categories based on a preference system. Except for immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, who are given the highest immigration priority, and a few other exceptions, Congress has set a finite number of visas that can be used each year for each category of immigrants.

Assuming you are not barred for some reason from entering the U.S., you then must determine what, if any, preference category you identify with. Some categories require that you be sponsored by someone else; others allow you to petition for a green card on your own.


Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (a spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents) can sponsor you by filing an immigrant visa petition. These petitions have the highest priority when it comes to qualifying for a green card and receiving them quickly. Certain other family members of U.S. citizens or current green card holders are also eligible to be sponsored under the “family preference” category, but not right away. They fall into five “preference categories,” meaning only a certain number of them will receive green cards each year. This is basically a first-come, first-serve situation.


Approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each year for foreign nationals (and their spouses and children) who seek to immigrate based on their job skills. Most employment-related green card requests require a job offer and an employer who petitions on behalf of the worker. However, there are some job categories that may allow you to get a green card based on unique qualifications, such as being an Afghan/Iraqi translator, an employee of an international organization, or a religious worker.

Further, there are two classifications of immigrants who may apply for a green card through self petition (i.e., it is not required that the applicant have a job offer from an employer). These include individuals with abilities in certain fields who are considered extraordinary, and certain other individuals regarded as notable, for whom it is in national interest of the U.S. that they be able to work in the U.S. permanently.


Finally, green cards may be available to entrepreneurs who are making an investment in an enterprise that creates new U.S. jobs.

^ What paperwork do I need to apply for a green card and what are the fees?

Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) is the primary application used by immigrants applying for a green card (lawful permanent residence) in the U.S. It collects basic information about the applicant's identity and checks for grounds of inadmissibility.

Filing Fees

Currently, the filing fee is $1,140. If Form I-485 for a child age 13 or younger is filed in the same envelope with the Form I-485 of at least one parent, the fee for the child's Form I-485 is $750. An additional biometrics service fee of $85 is required for applicants ages 14 to 78.

^ How often do I need to renew my green card, what documents do I need, and how much does it cost?

The expiration date of your green card depends on the type of permanent resident you are.

Regular Permanent Resident: A regular permanent resident’s green card lasts ten years. If you have a ten-year green card that has expired or will expire within the next six months, begin the renewal process by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, along with a fee of $540. This can be done online or via the mail. Go to: https://www.uscis.gov/file-online/file-form-i-90-online

Conditional Permanent Resident: These green cards only last two years. This typically happens when a green card is acquired through marriage and that marriage is less than two years old. Conditional permanent resident green cards are ineligible for renewal. However, there is a process in which a conditional permanent resident can request to have the conditions from their residency removed. If such a request is granted, the person becomes a regular permanent resident, and the green card expiration date and renewal rules that apply to them shift to those for regular permanent residents.

^ I lost my green card. What are my options?

You must fill out and submit Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The simplest way is to file electronically (https://www.uscis.gov/file-online/file-form-i-90-online), but you can also submit a paper form I-90 application. To request an I-90, call the USCIS at (800) 870-3676.

Note that an update to Form I-90 became available on February 27, 2017, so if you are planning to send a completed I-90 to the USCIS by mail, make sure you are using the most current form.

^ My green card expired years ago. Can I still renew it?

Fortunately, only the card expired, not your permanent resident status. If you haven’t committed any crimes since you last received your green card, you need only file Form I-90 to get a replacement card. However, if you were issued your green card over five years ago (or three, if you got it through marriage to a U.S. citizen), you may wish to consider applying for U.S. citizenship, since you would be eligible to do so.

^ What is the green card lottery?

The Green Card Lottery, also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery, is a program that provides approximately 50,000 green cards annually to people from all over the world who want to move to the United States. The Green Card Lottery is an official U.S. State Department, government-run program. It is one of the easiest ways to gain U.S. citizenship, as you simply enter the lottery and then await the computer-generated results.

There are two fundamental requirements for entering this lottery:

  1. You have to be from a country that qualifies for entry into the Green Card Lottery. Qualifying countries need to have had a low rate of immigration to the United State in the last two years and the applicants’ nativity is dependent on whether they were born there, not just where they currently live.
  2. The candidate also must have completed their education at the high school level.

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