How to get a Green Card

How to get a Green Card or permanent residence in the United States

The process to obtain a Green Card may vary depending on your immigration, family, and employment status. Learn about the requirements to process your permanent residence, as well as the cost and the ways in which you can apply.

Hope for a better future in America is green, and not just because of the dollars. Obtaining a Green Card is the first step to achieving your citizenship and fulfilling your dream of a better life for yourself and your family.

Immigrants without legal status in the United States are in constant danger of deportation, in addition, inconclusive immigration status limits their personal and professional development. By obtaining a Green Card, foreigners have the possibility of accessing benefits such as:

  • Living and working in the US
  • Having the possibility of acquiring goods
  • Applying for a driver's license
  • Receiving education in public schools
  • Having social security
  • Processing personal or business financing
  • Enlisting in the armed forces

5 ways to get a Green Card

The Green Card is the document that guarantees the legal and permanent residence of foreigners in the United States. Do you want to know if you can request it? We present the five main ways in which you can be a candidate:

  1. Through family: American citizens and permanent residents who have the Green Card, have the possibility of requesting the residence of direct relatives like spouses, children, parents, and siblings.
  2. Through a job: Workers and specialized professionals can apply this way. Among them, are artists, musicians, scientists, teachers, businessmen, athletes, doctors, religious, specialized workers, and even investors who have invested or are in the process of investing at least one million dollars in a new company.
  3. For humanitarian reasons: People who suffer or have suffered abuse, crimes, persecution due to race, nationality, or political or social conflicts in their country of origin, have the possibility of applying for asylum and permanent residence.
  4. By diversity lottery: The United States government awards 50,000 Green Cards each year in a random process. This draw benefits countries with a low rate of migrants in the country, mainly from Oceania, Africa, and Asia.****
  5. By time of residence: If you arrived in the United States legally or illegally before January 1, 1972, and have not left since your arrival, you can apply for your Green Card.

Process and requirements to apply for the Green Card

One of the most used eligibility mechanisms to apply for permanent residence is through a relative. To start this process, the petitioner, a citizen or legal resident must go to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and submit their application in one of these two main categories:

  • Direct family members: Spouses, children under 21 years of age, and parents.
  • Family preference: Single children over 21 years of age, married children of any age, and siblings.

To apply for the Green Card through family, the sponsor or petitioner, you must complete and submit the Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative. Once approved, they must wait for the date assigned for the visa granting appointment, the period between these steps will depend on availability, as well as the eligibility category in which they applied. **You can monitor the status of this information in the State Department visa bulletin. **

Visas obtained through direct relatives do not have an annual limit.

How much does the Green Card process cost?

The procedure for each eligibility criteria is different and requests specific requirements in each case, but in any situation, this process implies an investment of time and money.

If the beneficiary already lives in the United States:

The first requirement is Form I-130, the cost is $535 USD. Subsequently (or concurrently), the filing of Form I-485 must be paid, which has a cost of $1,140 USD, in addition to the USCIS immigrant fee (administrative fee) of $220 USD, and finally, the biometric services fee with a cost of $85 USD.

The total sum is approximately $2,000 USD. This is an estimate considering that the relative is already in the United States and they only make an adjustment to their status.

If the beneficiary lives outside the United States:

If, on the other hand, you are in another country, you must consider the consular procedure. This process is carried out through the Department of State and the entire process takes between five and 12 months. Additionally, the consular procedure requires the presentation of other documents, but the expenses will be less than for the immigrant who already lives in the United States.

The consular procedure includes the payment of the following fees:

  • Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative $535 USD
  • DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application $325 USD
  • Form I-864 Affidavit of Support $120 USD
  • USCIS Immigration Fee $220 USD

The total payment for the consular procedure totals $1,200 USD.

Biggest differences between both options:

Another difference is that, in the second case, the fees are paid separately throughout the process. While in an adjustment of status (when the relative already lives in the United States) they must be covered practically at the same time.

In either case, one must consider some other additional expenses such as transportation, medical exams, photographs, and legal fees (if required) ranging from $2,000 USD to $5,000 USD.

There is no formula to decide which of the two options is better, each immigration situation is different and the one you should opt for will depend on that. It is important to mention that in the case of adjustment of status, the Green Card can be denied for discretionary reasons, while in the consular process it hardly happens.

Do not delay obtaining your Green Card due to a lack of resources. At Alvva, we want to help you fulfill your dreams.