Know the steps in processing of green card

Steps in Green Card Processing for Permanent Residence in US

Are you considering making a permanent stay in the US? That’s an important life decision. For you to stay, you need to apply for permanent residence. Permanent residence means you would have similar rights to that of a citizen. There are some limitations such as you cannot vote.  Different countries can have different names for permanent residence. In the US, the permanent residence is called the Green Card. You may start asking what does the process look like?

There are varying types of Green cards available which this article does not consider. The types of green cards are discussed in a separate article. This article considers the general process and steps involved for both family based green cards and employment based green cards.

There are two broad ways to apply for a Green card. Either you are residing in the US and initiate an adjustment of status or you do it through the consulate. An adjustment of status means that you are already in the US and applying to adjust your immigration status. Alternatively, you can do it through a consulate or embassy.

  • Take note: you should possess a valid visa before the green card application and while it is pending. You cannot reside lawfully in the US without a valid visa. If you apply with an invalid visa this is not only unlawful, but a punishable offense.


  1. Eligibility criteria:

You need to determine the type of green card you can apply for. You can find the criteria here. Another important part of the eligibility is if there are visas available which varies depending upon the type and priority.

  1. Sponsorship:

Once you have checked the eligibility criteria, you usually need a sponsor other than yourself. Normally, you cannot sponsor yourself. The sponsor could be your relative already living in the US or your US employer. However, the sponsorship depends upon the type of green card for which you apply.

If you have a sponsor, then the sponsor also files the petition to initiate the process. The different type of applicable petitions are:

I-140, Petition for Alien Worker I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
I-130, Petition for Alien Relative I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
I-730, Refugee/Asylum Relative Petition I-918 Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status
Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Witholding Removal I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant



After the petition is filed, the steps differ between the consulate process and the adjustment of status. First, let’s see the consular process, then look at the adjustment of status.

Consular Process:

  1. Once the petition has been filed, you wait for the decision. In the case of an approved decision, then the National Visa Centre is notified.
  2. National Visa Centre will notify you about the successful application, fees to be paid, interview date, and if any medical exam is needed at an approved doctor.
  3. Attend the interview where the consular officer will conduct an interview with you and decide whether to grant you the green card or not.
  4. If the decision is favourable, then the National Visa Centre will provide you documentation called a “visa packet” and request your payment of the fees. This should be done before departure to the US.
  5. Buy your ticket and arrive in the US where you will present to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer aka Immigration Officer your visa packet.
  6. Receive your green card in the mail.

Adjustment of Status:

  1. You would file one of the above forms with the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status More information about the concurrent filing here.
  2. You may need to attend a medical exam as part of the I-485 filing, so you must go to an approved doctor.
  3. Attend the interview at the Application Support Centre (ACS) if necessary.
  4. Sometimes the authority will ask you for additional information or documentation, so you will need to submit this documentation to the ACS.
  5. Await the decision.
  6. If a positive decision, then you will receive a written approval then shortly after the Green card.

The processes have various steps which can take some time. When obtaining documentation from abroad for use in the US or at US consulates/embassies, you may need to have the document apostilled. More information about apostilles here from the US Department of State.

Time to get those documents together and complete the required forms!

Adam E. Badenhorst studied a MBA, and has professional experience in marketing and managing teams. Currently, he focuses most of his work on personal branding and small business topics. Recently, he has diversified his portfolio to include education topics. In his free time, he enjoys studying a new language, playing sports, and spending time with his family.

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