The Step-by-Step Process for a Green Card Application


A "green card" is also known as a "Permanent Resident Card" or "Alien Registration Card," and is a ten-year permit for noncitizens to live in the United States while working and attempting to access government benefits. There are three paths to acquiring a green card: marriage, family relationship or employment.

Marriage/Family Member

  • Fill out Form I-130, also known as the Immigrant Petition. This is available online at the first link under "Resources." You can download this for your spouse or relative who is not a citizen or legal resident and fill it out, or you can submit the form online.

  • Fill out Form I-485, also known as the Adjustment of Status, if your spouse or relative is already in the United States. If you are a Permanent Resident, you must wait for approval of I-130 to fill out I-485. If you are a U.S. citizen, you may fill out both forms at the same time.

  • Go to the U.S. consulate that has jurisdiction over the country where your spouse currently lives, if he does not live in the United States now. There you will apply for an immigrant visa for your spouse or relative. Once the visa is approved, you can go back to Step 2.


  • Attempt to qualify for a waiver of Labor Certification requirements. There are several different ways to get this waiver, and each has a form to send in to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization. If you have "extraordinary ability" in athletics, sciences, education business or the arts, you can fill out a petition.

  • Apply for labor certification. This involves a different version of form I-140, and your approval and its timing will both depend on several factors. If you have a graduate or undergraduate degree and experience, your application will be considered first. Subsequent groups, in order of preference, are applicants for jobs requiring undergraduate degrees, for jobs requiring at least two years of experience, and then jobs requiring less than two years of experience.

  • Follow the specific instructions for your situation, depending on the feedback you get based on your form. A commonly required form for those seeking Labor Certifications is 9089, which includes documentation supporting your claim for entry, such as an existing job offer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Internationally recognized scientists and researchers, physicians who work in areas with health shortages for the Veteran's Administration, ministers or religious workers, advanced degree holders whose expertise can benefit the national interest, entrepreneurs with at least $500,000 to $1,000,000 to invest, or executives with multinational companies, can all fill out variuos forms of the I-140 waiver petition.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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