How to Get a Green Card

Life in the United States without a Green Card is more than complicated. When you don’t have legal status, there’s an overwhelming fear that looms over you because you can be deported from the U.S.

But what is really meant by “legal status?” Legal status is a term that simply means that you are authorized to work, travel and apply for government assistance. Legal status also allows you to attend a higher education institution and obtain a driver’s license. To have legal status, you must get a permanent resident card.

The permanent resident card is better known as a Green Card. It’s called a Green Card because, back in the ‘70s, it was in fact a greenish color. Even though the cards are no longer green, the nickname has remained.

There are three main ways through which you can get a Green Card: Family-sponsorship, employment, or refugee or asylee status.

Family-sponsored Green Card

For a Green Card through Family Sponsorship, you must be one of the following:

  • An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
  • A family member of a U.S. citizen who fits into a preference category
  • A family member of a Green Card holder
  • A member of a specialized category

What is the first step? The form that needs to be filed by the U.S. citizen family member to petition for this type of Green Card for a relative is Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

Employment-based Green Card

For a Green Card through employment, you must have one of the following:

  • A job offer in the U.S.
  • An Investment in an enterprise that creates new U.S. jobs
  • A current or past job in a special category

What is the first step? The form that needs to be filed by the employee or investor to petition for this type of Green Card is Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

Refugee or Asylee Status Green Card

For a Green Card through refugee or asylee status, you must have experienced persecution or fear of persecution for one of the following reasons:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership of a social group
  • Political Opinion

What is the first step? There is no initial form that needs to be filed. After 1 year as a refugee in the U.S., refugees are required to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status.

Required Documents When Petitioning for a Green Card

The documents that you will be asked to submit depending on the type of Green Card you are applying for. But you can expect to submit the following:

  • A valid passport
  • An Affidavit of Support
  • Certain civil documents such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, court and military records
  • A completed medical examination form