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If you plan to immigrate to the US, it is important to know how to get a Green Card. The Green Card known as the Permanent Resident Card allows you to live and work in the US. 

In this article we will explain in detail everything you need to know about how to get a Green Card nowadays, what current requirements are for residency, the steps for american residency, how to get the papers in the United States and obtain the Green Card as a Chilean, Colombian, Mexican, from Spain, being in Argentina or in any other country. 

The article information is detailed, but if you have questions we can help you. Our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles have more than 50 years of combined experience helping immigrants through the immigration process for US residency.


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How to get a Green Card In The United States In 2024

A very common question in our offices is: How to obtain the Green Card in the USA? Immigration laws in the US offer different ways to obtain a Green Card, it all depends on your immigrant category. When we talk about how to obtain a Green Card and permanent residence in the United States, we talk about the same process.

In order to apply for a Green Card, you must be eligible under one of the available categories and meet the application criteria for residency in the United States.

Green Card Eligibility Categories

To find out how to get the Green Card, consider your circumstances tailored to the following categories:

  • Through family based immigration;
  • Through a job;
  • As a special immigrant;
  • Through refugee or asylee status;
  • As a victim of human trafficking and other crimes;
  • Victims of abuse;
  • By other categories;
  • Through registration.

Next, we show you in detail the process of applying for permanent residence in the United States.

How To Get A Green Card through family based immigration

  • You are an immediate family member of a US citizen:
    • Spouse;
    • Unmarried child under 21 years of age;
    • Father or mother with at least 21 years of age.
  • Other relatives of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident under the category of family-based preferences.
    1. Family members of US citizens: Unmarried child 21 years of age or older, married child of any age, or sibling at least 21 years of age.
    2. Family members of lawful permanent residents : Spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age or unmarried child 21 years of age or older.
family based immigration

Please review our article related to family based immigration for more information on these applications.

How To Obtain The Green Card By Marriage

  • You are the fiancé(e) of a US citizen or the child of the fiancé(e):
    • Individual admitted to the US as a fiancé of a US citizen using the K-1 fiancé(e) visa;
    • Child of a fiancé(e) of a US citizen admitted to the US on a K-2 nonimmigrant visa.
  • Widow(er) of a US citizen who was married at the time of death.

How To Get A Green Card For Employment Purposes

general application process for the green card

The steps to take to apply for a Green Card in the United States depend on your individual situation and are variable. Those shown in the image are the most frequent in the general application process. That is, they are the ones that most of those who apply for the Green Card will go through.

  • First Preference Category (EB-1 visa)
    • With extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, sports or business or;
    • Outstanding researcher or professor or;
    • Executive or manager of a multinational that meets certain requirements.
  • Second Preference Category (EB-2 visa)
    • Member of a profession that requires a graduate degree or; 
    • Possesses extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences or business or;
    • Seeks to obtain a national interest waiver.
  • Third Preference Category ( EB-3 visa )
    • Skilled worker with 2 years of training or work experience that is not temporary or seasonal in nature;
    • Professional with a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent abroad and a member of the profession;
    • Unskilled worker doing work that requires less than 2 years of experience or training and the employment is not temporary or seasonal. 
  • Physicians with national interest exemption. You are a physician who agrees to work full-time in clinical practice in a designated underserved area for a set period of time. It must also meet other eligibility requirements.

How To Obtain The Green Card By Investment

  • Immigrant Investor (EB-5 visa): You have invested or are actively in the process of investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a given area of ​​employment) in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. In addition, you will create full-time jobs for at least 10 qualified employees.

How To Get A Green Card For Being A Victim Of Violence

  • VAWA applicant as a victim of abuse or extreme cruelty:
    • Being the abused spouse of a US permanent resident or US citizen;
    • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident or US citizen who has been abused;
    • Abused father of a US citizen.

In our “VAWA visa” blog you can read everything related to this visa.

  • HRIFA abused spouse and child: The abused child or spouse of a lawful permanent resident who received their status based on HRIFA.
  • Victims of human trafficking and other crimes: T visas and U visas can grant permanent residence in these cases of human trafficking and other crimes.

Find out the T visa requirements and what is a U visa in their respective blogs where we detail requirements, eligibility and everything else you need to know.

Through Other Categories

  • Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIF):
    • Liberian national continuously physically present in the US since November 20, 2014 or;
    • You are the spouse, child under the age of 21, or unmarried child or child over the age of 21 of a qualifying Liberian citizen.
  • Diversity Visa Program for those selected in the Department of State (DOS) visa lottery.
  • Lautenberg parolee: You were granted parole into the US as a Lautenberg parolee.
  • Indochinese Entry Parole Adjustment Act of 2000: You are a naturalized or citizen of Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos who was granted parole into the US on or before October 1, 1997 from Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program, a refugee camp in East Asia, or a displaced person camp administered by UNHCR in Thailand.;
  • American Indian born in Canada: You were born in Canada and have 50% or more American Indian blood;
  • US-born children of foreign diplomats: The child of a foreign official born while the official was stationed in the US.
  • Section 13 (diplomat): They were stationed in the US as foreign diplomats or high-ranking officials and cannot return home. Spouses and other qualified family members of diplomats under section 13 may also apply. You may be interested in reviewing our up-to-date diplomatic visa information.

As A Special Immigrant

  • Religious worker visa: You are coming to the US as a religious worker on the R visa for your non-profit religious denomination;
  • Afghan or Iraqi national:
    • They worked as an Afghan or Iraqi translator for the US government;
    • Employed by/for the US Government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 for at least 1 year;
    • They were an Afghan employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF);
  • International media representative (USAGM or beneficiary thereof) who comes to the US to carry out their work;
  • Employee of an international organization or their family member or NATO employee or a family member: Includes employees and retired employees of embassies, consulates, NATO and others.

Through Registry

Those who have resided in the United States continuously since before January 1, 1972 can apply for the Green Card. 

common ways to obtain the green card

Through Refugee or Asylee Status

  • Asylum: If you were granted asylum at least 1 year ago;
  • Refuge: You were admitted as a refugee at least 1 year ago.

In our section on asylum in the USA you will find extensive information on the subject.

Have A Sponsor Or Be Petitioned For A Green Card

The American residency process requires at least two forms:

  1. The immigrant petition;
  2. Form I-485 , Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to apply for a Green Card. 

Although you can self-petition for a permanent resident card in the United States, generally someone else must file the petition on your behalf.

These are some of the most common forms in these cases:

Other requests include:

  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow (er), or Special Immigrant;
  • Form I-918, Petition for Nonimmigrant Status U;
  • Form I-526, Immigrant Petition for Foreign Entrepreneur;
  • Form I-929, Petition for Qualified Relative of a U-1 Nonimmigrant.

Adjustment Of Status Or Consular Processing Are You Inside Or Outside The USA?

If you already know you are eligible, you must determine whether you will use adjustment of status or consular processing.

  • If you are in the US, you will use adjustment of status with USCIS .
    • In case you have an approved immigrant petition and the visa is available, file Form I-485, to register permanent residence or adjust your status with USCIS, or
    • If you do not have an approved petition, check your eligibility to see if you can file the petition and Form I-485 at the same time.
  • If you are outside the US, you will use consular processing with the U.S. Department of State .

Please review our article on “Adjustment of status” and “consular Processing” for details on each procedure.

General Process For Applying For A Green Card

The steps to apply for your Green Card vary according to your personal situation. However, these are the basic steps that most candidates must follow:

  1. As a general rule, someone files an immigrant petition on your behalf. It is what is known as sponsor or who petitions you. In some cases you can self-petition.
  2. When USCIS approves your immigrant petition and if a visa is available, you will file the Green Card application with USCIS or the US Department of State.
  3. Go to the biometric data collection appointment, to provide your fingerprints, a signature and photographs.
  4. Attend the interview.
  5. Receive the decision on your application.

What Are The Requirements For American Residency?

Since you know to a great extent what is needed to obtain permanent residence in the United States, it is time to know the requirements for the Green Card (which suppose a number of docs to obtain the residence).

These documents for American residency vary depending on the situation, but generally include:

  • Marriage certificate (if applicable);
  • Financial documents;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Military records (if applicable);
  • Police, court and prison records (if applicable);
  • Proof of US citizenship or permanent residence of the sponsor;
  • Criminal record certificate (if applicable);
  • Proof of legal entry to the US;
  • Documents of dissolution of previous marriages (if applicable).

For Continuous Residence, The Applicant Must Show That:

  • They have continuously resided in the US for 5 years prior to filing, or;
  • They are the qualifying spouse of a US citizen and have continuously resided in the US for 3 years.

Note: Continuous residence means that the applicant has maintained their residence in the US for the required time. Extended absences can interrupt this status, which would prevent you from obtaining US residency.

How Long Does It Take To Achieve American Residence?

Now that you know how to process an American residence, applying for the Green Card usually requires a period of time that varies according to the following circumstances:

  • Between 10 and 13 months for spouses of a US citizen living in the US and 11 to 17 months if the spouse lives abroad.
  • Between 29 and 38 months for spouses of Green Card holders living in the US and 23 to 32 months if the spouse lives abroad.

Our experienced immigration attorneys can advise you throughout this process of obtaining a Green Card. 

How Long Does Permanent Residence Last?

Although the permanent resident status does not expire, the Green Card is valid for 10 years. This means that once this time has elapsed, you must renew it.

Why Can A Green Card Be Denied?

In general, the Green Card can be denied due to an error made when filling out the required documentation or due to lack of information that may be key for the application. 

Other reasons USCIS may deny your application are:

  • Faults found in the validity of the marriage;
  • The Green Card application was submitted with errors in the package;
  • Insufficient payment or insufficient financial resources;
  • You do not qualify to apply for a permanent residence in the United States;
  • Unlawful entry and presence in the United States;
  • Criminal records found;
  • Certain medical problems;
  • Lying or submitting false documents.
waiver of inadmissibility

With the help of a good immigration attorney it is possible to claim through a waiver of inadmissibility application. We can also help you clean your criminal record.

Please note that if you marry a US citizen, you may receive temporary residence in the US. If you do not comply with the corresponding indications, your permanent Green Card may be denied and you risk being deported from the country. The good news here is that we are immigration lawyers specializing in deportations and we can help you even in these scenarios.

How Much Does The Green Card Cost In 2024?

These costs vary depending on your status and application. However, they usually include the following fees:

  • Form I-130: $535;
  • Form I-140: $700;
  • I-526 petition: $3,675;
  • Form I-485: $750. For children under 14 years of age, the cost will be $140;
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220. This fee helps cover the production of the Green Card by USCIS;
  • Biometric services: Approximately $85;
  • Through the visa lottery : Fee of $330.

Now that you know how much the American residency process costs, you can prepare for the residency process in the United States.

How To Renew My Green Card?

Permanent resident status does not have an expiration date. However, the Green Card must be renewed every 10 years through USCIS. Failure to do so will cause problems for you to travel, work or carry out legal procedures.

Green Card holders can renew the document using Form I-90, Application to Replace US Permanent Resident Card. Similarly, this form serves to replace the Green Card that has not yet expired.

When carrying out the procedure, keep in mind that: 

  • The Form I-90 must be filed within six months prior to the expiration date of the Green Card, never before.
  • If your Green Card has expired due to carelessness or any other reason, you must immediately file Form I-90 with USCIS.
  • USCIS recommends applying for a replacement Green Card if the holder has an older version than the current one but has not yet expired.

How Much Does It Cost To Renew The Green Card In 2024?

Renewing a Green Card has the following fees:

  • Application Fee: $455
  • Biometrics fee: $85

There are certain special circumstances in which applicants may be exempt from paying the fee for this immigration process. This is the case of juvenile immigrants with a recognized status, T visa or U visa applicants among others.

When To Replace The Green Card?

The Green Card must be replaced when:

  • It is lost or stolen;
  • It is mutilated or destroyed;
  • Contains an error (spelling, date, marital status and others.);
  • You never received the card in the mail;
  • The holder’s name was changed;
  • If you were previously in traveler status, but now reside in the United States, you must apply for a replacement Green Card;
  • If you previously resided in the US but have assumed frequent flyer status, you will also need to apply for a replacement;
  • Green Card holders who became permanent residents before their 14th birthday must also renew or replace their Green Card after their 14th birthday;
  • When the immigrant’s status has changed to permanent resident.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Green Card

What is the Green Card in the United States and what is it for?

The Green Card is an identity document in card format that authorizes legal living and working in the US. This makes an alien a US resident.

How to get the Green Card as a student?

It is not directly possible to obtain the Green Card as a student, since the F-1 student visa for the United States is a non-immigrant visa and is granted to pursue academic studies in the US and its purpose is not to obtain US residency. Our immigration lawyers will help you in the process of how to obtain American residency.

How to track My Green Card?

You must register and create a USCIS Case Status online account to get information about your case automatically, along with tracking from the U.S. Postal Service. You must then register for Informed Delivery through USPS to receive daily images of the mail that has been sent to you.

How to get the Green Card if I have a tourist visa?

The tourist visa for the United States is for temporary visit purposes in the US, so it is not possible to process the Green Card. 

Is the Green Card a visa?

Some applicants wonder if the Green Card is a permanent resident visa in the United States. However, it is not the case. The Green Card is not a visa, but there are immigrant visas that open the path to residency in the United States.

How is the American residence like?

Being a resident in the United States is the dream of many foreigners, but to obtain and apply for residency, you must comply with everything necessary for it. This status may open up the future possibility of becoming a US citizen.

How can I get the American residence “Green Card” if I am Mexican?

It does not matter if you are Mexican, Venezuelan or of any other nationality, if you meet the eligibility requirements, you can achieve it.

Green Card Lawyers In Los Angeles

We hope that this article on how to get a Green Card is useful to you. You may be interested in learning how to become a US citizen in the future. Remember that for any case related to immigration matters, the lawyers at Lluis Law are at your disposal.

Lawful permanent residence is a long road that requires the experience of competent immigration attorneys to achieve it smoothly. 

At the firm we have extensive experience in representing immigrants. With an office with more than 40 years of history located close to the immigration courts, we are ready to help you. In addition, our attorneys and assistants are Latino and we speak Spanish and English. 


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