How do I become a lawful permanent resident of the United States?
If you are a legal immigrant in the U. S., or if you have permission to work and live in the U. S., you can apply to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. This process is commonly known as getting your “green card”. As a lawful permanent resident, you can live and work permanently in the U. S., so long as you do not commit any act that would make you removable from the U.S. under federal immigration laws, such as certain crimes. Becoming a legal permanent resident is also a necessary step to becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
First, you must have an immigrant visa number before you can apply to become a lawful permanent resident. Because the number of immigrant visa numbers available each year is limited, you may not get an immigrant visa number right away. In some cases, you might have to wait years between the time that your immigrant petition is approved and the time that you receive your immigrant visa number.
Next, you’ll need to complete and file various forms with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), including two color photographs taken within the last 30 days. You may have to complete different forms depending on your situation.
With some exceptions, you must pay a filing fee in order to apply for lawful permanent residence. The usual filing fee is $1,010.00, but this fee is different if you are over 80 years old, or under 14 years old. Plus, if you were admitted to the U.S. as a refugee, you do not have to pay the filing fee. USCIS can also charge you an additional $1,000.00 filing fee if you are required to file a supplemental application that gives more information. There is a fee waiver application that you can file with the USCIS; depending in your circumstances, you might qualify for a waiver of the usual filing fee.
You also will be required to submit to a FBI fingerprint background check, which will take place at either an Application Support Center, or a Designated Law Enforcement Agency. Most applicants for lawful permanent residence, with a few exceptions, must also submit to a medical examination by a civil surgeon that is approved by USCIS.
After you submit your completed application to USCIS, you will have to go to a USCIS office for an interview, where you will answer questions about your application. You can check the status of your application with the USCIS office that received your application.
While you are waiting for your application to be approved, you can apply for a work permit. You also can leave the country during this time period, if you receive advance permission to do so, which is called “advance parole”. If you don’t receive advance parole before leaving the U.S., you will abandon your application for lawful permanent residence, and you may not be able to legally re-enter the U.S.
Additional Immigration Law Articles
- How do I become a U.S. citizen?
- The Widow's Penalty
- Do I Need a Visa to Travel Abroad?
- Workplace Injuries do not Discriminate Between Legals and Illegals
- How to Get Immigration Assistance for Little or No Cost
- Overstaying Your Visa
- What Happens When You Divorce a U.S. Citizen Prior to Becoming a U.S. Citizen?
- Can I work in the U.S. if I am not a U.S. citizen?
- How can I help my fiance(e) become a U.S. resident?
- How can I help my relative become a U.S. resident?
- How can I help my employee become a U.S. resident?
- Hiring Foreign Workers
- Fiancé Visas
- Family Based Visas
- What to do if Detained by Immigration (Infographic)
- What is a motion to reopen?
- How long can I stay in the U.S. as a student?
- Can I use a motion to reopen to stay in the United States?
- How Can I Obtain An Immigrant Visa So That I May Live Here Permanently?
- Who can file a motion to reopen?
- How do I know if my Immigration problem involves the Department of State, USCIS, or the Department of Labor?
- How long do I have to file a motion to reopen?
- What is a Port of Entry?
- Can I file a motion to reopen if I’m outside the United States?
- What Are Some Of The Responsibilities Of A U.S. Citizen?
- Do I need a licensed attorney to help me fill out my immigration forms?
- How Do I Obtain Refugee Status?
- Can an immigration lawyer speed up my case?
- How do I apply to study in the U.S.?
- What is a Non-Immigrant Visa?
- Who Is Eligible For Asylum And How Might I Apply?
- What is the Visa Waiver Program?
- What Are The Prerequisites To Obtaining U.S. Citizenship?
- I want to study in the United States. What do I need to do to obtain a student visa?
- What Is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
- What are the ways of obtaining permanent residence?
- I want to become a permanent resident of the United States, what do I need to do?
- What is an Immigrant Visa?
- I was issued a temporary visa to enter the United States legally, can I stay in the United States as a permanent resident?
- Do I Really Need To Divulge All Details About My Criminal History, Even If A Charge Has Been Expunged? What Are The Consequences If I Do Not?
- What doesn't permanent residency give me?
- How Do I Apply For Immigrant Status Based On Employment?
- Do I have to disclose all my criminal history on my immigration application?
- What Requirements Must A Foreign National Who Wants To Visit The U.S. Satisfy?
- Can I really obtain permanent residence (green card) in the U.S. with a diversity lottery system?
- What if I would like to live and work in the U.S. and I have family already living there?
- What are the requirements to enter the diversity lottery system?
- What are the conditions for TPS status?
- What are the TPS eligibility requirements?
Search LawInfo's Immigration Law Resources