How to get a Green Card

Thinking of emigrating to the United States? Therefore, It is very important that you know how to get a Green Card. In this article we will inform you about everything you need to know about the Green Card. From how to carry out the procedures and requirements to obtain it, to the associated costs. We will also talk about who qualifies to obtain it and we will give answer to FAQs on the topic.

When we talk about how to get a Green Card and permanent residence we talk about the same process. Permanent legal resident status is what you achieve by getting the Green Card. In other words, the card is the document that the permanent resident receives when he obtains the new status.


The information in the article is extensive and detailed. If you have further questions we can help you. To receive personalized attention on your case, do not hesitate to book your free consultation with us. Our lawyers in Los Angeles will attend you today.


Table of Contents

How to get a Green Card in 2020?

Family based immigration is one way to get a Green Card; that is, through a family member who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR). The immigrant’s relative thus becomes a sponsor or, in other words, will be the person responsible for their maintenance in the US.

In this case, those who qualify for the Green Card are immediate family members: spouse, unmarried children under 21 years of age and the father or mother of a citizen or close family members (spouse and children under 21 years) of a resident United States permanent.

There are other ways to obtain the Green Card such as the visas for the USA. Upon request of an employer in the US you may obtain a visa. Under the sponsorship of the future employer the immigrant worker obtains a work permit. That allows him and his family to live peacefully in the country.

Other ways to obtain it

Family and employment visas are the most frequent ways of obtaining a Green card in the United States in 2020. However, there are other ways for you as immigrant. Seek the help of an immigration lawyer or some institutions that protect the rights of immigrants.

Another frequent way to get the Green Card is through asylum in the United States. Other options include the visa lottery, the Green Card for humanitarian reasons (U visa, T visa, WAWA) and others.

Green card by marriage

Green card by marriage

If you marry a US citizen or permanent resident this does not grant the right to obtain a Green Card. However, it does represent an expedited way of obtaining legal permanent residence status (green card). This is because the spouse is required to submit a petition requesting her spouse’s papers.

The indispensable requirement for USCIS to recognize the marriage is that it has been celebrated in accordance with the laws of the country where it took place, either in the US or in any other country. For these purposes, the marriage can be civil or religious, between a man and a woman or between people of the same sex. It is recommended to avoid the so-called common law marriage.

The process to obtain a Green Card by marriage, begins with the request of the spouse’s papers by the citizen or LPR through the form I-130. The delay in the process of obtaining permanent residence for a foreign spouse is currently 12 to 24 months.

If you would like more information on this last point, please review our article on how to fill out the I-130 form. Remember that you can also take a free consultation with our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles.

Green card for a citizen’s family member

This includes the spouse or widower, single / married children and children under 21 years of age, parents and siblings of a US citizen. Children can be biological, adopted or dependent stepchildren. Everyone must comply with the requirements set forth in current immigration laws.

Green card for family members of a permanent resident (LPR)

Although the requests of relatives of a Green Card holder are quite similar to those of a citizen, these differ in several aspects. The prosecution of these cases usually lasts longer and in the case of LPR spouses who remain without papers in the US cannot adjust their status.

On the other hand, the spouses of a citizen can do so, provided they have not entered the country illegally. So the undocumented people then have to leave the country and request a consular interview in which they can apply to reconsider a penalty for illegal presence of 3 to 10 years.

Family members who can apply to obtain the Green Card sponsored by a permanent resident are the spouse and children under 21 years old. As an LPR you can’t request a married child.

What is a Green Card and what is it for?

This document allows you as a foreigner to live and work legally in the United States. Therefore, you can forget about the fear for deportation. It is the previous immigration status established by the Immigration and Nationality Act for those who aspire to obtain US citizenship by naturalization.

Although the Green Card grants broad rights to its holders, it has important differences with respect to those of a citizen. One of them is that citizenship or nationality is never lost, with few exceptions, while legal permanent residence is.

Immigration statistics indicate that every year more than one million foreigners apply for the Green Card. An economy like the one in the United States, which is by far the largest in the world today, attracts thousands of people traveling to this country in hopes of fulfilling their American dream.

Requirements for the Green Card

The recommendation for people who wish to obtain a Green Card for permanent residence in the United States is that they first try to obtain a temporary visa type such as the B1 or B2 visa. However, they can do it also while being abroad, even through a consular process for the United States.

After entering the United States and with the help of one of our expert immigration lawyers, you can decide if you are looking for how to obtain the Green Card through a family member, an employer or other existing channels.

Although B1 and B2 visas do not allow to work in the country, temporary work visas are also available. The temporary work visa H, allows the worker and his family to settle temporarily in the US while the work permit lasts. Also when a person applies for asylum, he receives a work authorization after 180 days, while his application is processed.


To know how to obtain the Green Card it is important to know the requirements and everything you may need. Our law firm is at your disposal.

Basic procedures to obtain the Green Card

The requirements and/or procedures to obtain the Green Card are basically the following:

  • Determine if you are eligible for any of the categories of eligibility to obtain Legal Permanent Residency.
  • Adjust your current status to permanent resident.
  • If you are outside the United States, carry out the process through the consular procedure in your home country.
  • If you wish to emigrate through an employment visa or a family petition, carry out the procedure together with your sponsor (employer or family member).
  • Check the availability of visas and priority dates before proceeding. In our dedicated article you can discover what does the priority date mean on immigration terms.
  • Take a medical examination according to USCIS specifications.
  • Make an affidavit of economic heritage.
  • Prove that you will not represent a public danger for the US.
  • To be 18 years old or more. If you are underage, comply with the provisions of the Child Status Protection Law.

What do you need to become resident in the United States?

To be a resident of the United States it is necessary to comply with the aforementioned requirements and maintain a clean immigration status. In other words, not having been convicted of a felony or being involved in any criminal or immigration expulsion proceedings.

How to renew my Green Card?

Although permanent resident status does not have an expiration date, the Green Card or permanent resident card does and must be renewed every 10 years through USCIS. Failure to do so causes problems for the holder when traveling abroad or when he needs to carry out any legal or work procedure within the US.

Holders of a Green Card can renew the document using Form I-90, Application to replace the permanent resident card. Similarly, this form serves to replace a Green Card that has not yet expired.

When making the procedure, keep in mind that:

  • Form I-90 must be submitted within six months prior to the expiration date of the residence card, not before.
  • If your Green Card expired due to carelessness or any other reason, you must immediately submit Form I-90 to USCIS.
  • USCIS recommends requesting the replacement of the green card, if the holder has an earlier version than the current one but has not yet expired.

When to replace the Green Card?

The Residence Card must be replaced when:

  • Gets lost or stolen.
  • It is mutilated or destroyed.
  • Contains an error (spelling, date, marital status, etc.).
  • You never received the card in the mail.
  • The name of the owner was changed.
  • If you were previously in a traveler status, but now reside in the United States, you must request a replacement Green Card.
  • If you previously resided in the US, but have assumed frequent flyer status, you must also request a replacement.
  • Holders of a green card who became permanent residents before their 14th birthday must also renew or replace their Green Card after they reach that age.
  • When the immigrant status has changed to permanent resident.

How much does it cost to renew the Green Card?

Renewing a Green Card has the following charges:

  • Application Fee: $ 455
  • Biometric data rate: $ 85

There are certain special circumstances in which applicants may be exempted from paying the fee for this immigration process. This is the case of young immigrants with a recognized status, T visa, U visa, registry, etc.), who may qualify to receive this benefit.

Why can a Green Card be denied?

green card denied

Green Card applications may be denied by the Citizenship and Immigration Service for a number of reasons explained below:

Failures found in the validity of the marriage

The applicant for the residence card by marriage must prove that the act is valid and legally recognized. It must be an authentic marriage relationship, that is, not a product of the immigration circumstance.

To prove it, it is enough to present the marriage certificate, although the immigration officer can visit the couple at their home and check their social networks for photos, videos, bank accounts and any other type of evidence that indicates that there is indeed a real couple relationship.

Some of these cases of denial of the Green Card by marriage may happen because:

  • One of the spouses is still married to another person or did not divorce permanently until after getting married again.
  • You married a same-sex couple in a country that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage.
  • The marriage was legally recognized in the country where you were married for some reason.
  • The marriage was detected as arranged or agreed for immigration purposes.

Green Card request sent with package errors

There are small mistakes that are made very frequently during the process due to lack of guidance or help from an experienced immigration lawyer.

To avoid them, before submitting the application, the material should be reviewed very well. Among the most common mistakes in the processing of a Residence Card we may find:

  1. Documents were sent in a language other than English. It is necessary to have translated all the documents with a certified interpreter. This includes: marriage certificates and marriage certificates. Such documents must be sent in the original language and in English with all the information of the interpreter.
  2. Incomplete forms. The applicant must ensure that the application form for the residence card is filled out correctly. If any of the questions asked do not apply to the applicant and their spouse, “N / A” (“not applicable”) must be placed.
  3. Photographs with problems. Form I-90 specifies what type of photographs is required to accompany the application. The photos must be passport type.

Incomplete payment

Another reason for a denied application is the incomplete payment of the fees required by the government. As explained above, the filing fee is $ 455 and the biometric data rate is $ 85. To obtain the Green Card based on the marriage the cost can vary between $ 1,200 and $ 1,760 depending on the type of procedure.

Unsigned Request

Both the applicant and their spouse must sign the application correctly where requested.

Insufficient financial resources

When the application for permanent residence or Green Card is based on the family, the applicant sponsoring your spouse or close relative must demonstrate that they have sufficient resources to support their family member.

In general, it is required that the sponsoring family have income greater than 125% of the level of poverty established by the federal government. To verify this, the sponsor must submit copies of salary receipts, federal tax payments, property certification, income, etc.

The applicant does not qualify to apply for the Green Card while in the US

There are cases in which the person is not eligible to apply for the residence card while already being within the United States. For example, if you entered the country with a tourist visa and the green card application was made within a relatively short time (60 days), the application could be denied. The government may believe that the entrance to the US was intended to apply for permanent residence only.

Illegal entry to the US

Another reason may be that the person has entered the country illegally. To find a solution to this problem you should consult with a good immigration lawyer in Los Angeles to guide you on how to make a request for waiver of provisional illegal presence.

Then you will have to process a Green Card at the consulate or embassy of the country of origin.

Immigrants in one of the following situations may also have problems qualifying for a Green Card:

  • People who have entered the US with a J-1 Visa (exchange visitor), are likely to have to wait in their home country 2 years before obtaining an exemption for this requirement.
  • Those who have entered the country with a crew visa (C-1 / D).
  • People with an open expulsion process. To try to remedy this problem they should seek the help of immigration lawyers specializing in deportations.
  • People who arrived in the US with a promised K-1 Visa, but do not marry the person who requested them.

Other cases of denial of a Green Card

An immigrant may be ineligible to obtain a Green Card in the following situations as well:

Criminal record. People who have been convicted of certain crimes or are subject to judicial proceedings.

Certain medical problems. Foreigners with contagious diseases, a mental condition or people with a history of drug abuse.

Lying or presenting false documents. If immigration agents detect that the applicant for the residence card lied or presented false documentation they will deny the application and the immigrant’s record will be stained.

However, if the immigrant is ineligible because of a criminal record, immigration fraud or a medical problem, with the help of an experienced immigration lawyer, he or she can still obtain a waiver of inadmissibility, through a request of I-601 waiver.

Frequently asked questions on how to get a Green Card

Here we will give answer to some of the most recurring queries we receive on how to get the Green Card and all questions regarding the Green Card. The lawyers at the Lluis Law firm have more than 50 years of combined experience solving cases successfully. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our office and we will give you personal assistance on your case. You can book your free consultation today.

What does a Green Card look like?

The Green Card was named after a similar document that was introduced at the end of World War II and was green too. Over time it has been modified to avoid counterfeiting and identity theft, so over the years cards of different colors were issued until the current one consisting of a very complex biometric security system with magnetized characters.

The card contains a code with personal information of its holder and in it you can see the name of the holder and his photograph. Since 2006, the current card has changed and is white with yellow and has a green stripe in the background.

In addition to the photograph of the holder on both sides, the new Green Card contains an image of the Statue of Liberty and the national flag. It also has integrated holographic images.

What features are no longer present in the new redesigned Green Card?

The new redesigned Green Cards no longer have a built-in optical band on the back and do not show the cardholder’s signature that appeared in the previous versions.

What is the Green Card number?

The green card number that USCIS delivers is equal to the foreigner’s registration number. In English it is known as “A number” or “alien number”, and is always preceded by the prefix “A”. This number can be found on the back of the Green Card, it looks like this: A # 000-000-000). Jun 22 2015

How to track my Green Card?

You must first register and create an online Case Status account so that you can obtain information about your case automatically, along with tracking tracking from the US Postal Service, after USCIS sends the document.

You must then register for Informed Delivery through USPS, so that you can also receive daily images of the mail that has been sent to you. With this information, the immigrant can track the package he expects, configure text message and email alerts and enter any information to the USPS delivery service.

For more information you can review our article dedicated to “Adjustment of status” or contact us directly.

How do Green Cards protect cardholder information?

These new cards have integrated RFID chips. The fingerprint of the cardholder is laser engraved. The edges are resistant to alterations (that is obvious to the naked eye if you try to alter the permit). The ink used changes color. There are high resolution images of state flags and presidents.

Do I have to change my old Green Card for one with the new redesign?

No. The Green Card issued is valid until the expiration date that appears on the card.

What happens if the Green Card I have is one of the previous generations that has no expiration date?

Older green cards with no expiration date remain valid, however, they lack the security features of the new designs. It would be best to obtain a replacement Green Card.

What happens if I lose my Green Card while traveling abroad?

If you were traveling abroad when you lost your Green Card, you should contact the US Embassy or Consulate for the USA, The USCIS office or the nearest port of entry before submitting a Form I-90.

How can I find out if my application for a replacement Green Card has been approved?

You can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center hotline at 1-800-375-5283. You can also check the status of your application online. Make sure you have your receipt number, alien registration number, name and date of birth.

What can I do if my request for a replacement Green Card has been denied?

Once you receive the letter informing that your request for a replacement Green Card has been denied, you must send a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider. In this way, you can request a new evaluation or reconsideration of the decision taken.

Why is it necessary to have a replacement Green Card?

The law requires that all foreigners, who are 18 years of age or older, carry their foreigner registration certificate or the alien registration card issued to them. Failure to meet your Green Card requirement is a misdemeanor.

Do you need help requesting the issuance of a replacement Green Card? Or maybe to file a motion for the purpose of reopening or reconsidering an application denied for a replacement permit?


Call us right now and talk to our trustable immigration attorneys at the Lluis Law firm. They can help you request a renewal or replacement Green Card.


In addition to the Green Card, are there other documents that prove the legal status of a person’s permanent residence?

Other proof of permanent legal residence status is: a foreign passport with a permanent residence stamp (I-551), a foreign passport with a legal temporary residence stamp or an adhesive label (I-688), or temporary evidence of permanent resident status (I -94).

Where can I apply for a Green Card?

You can apply for a Green Card at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is an agency subject to the Department of Homeland Security. There requests are accepted, renewed or replaced in case the card gets lost or damaged.

What should I do when my Green Card is about to expire?

If your Green Card expires in the next six months, you can submit a Request to Replace the Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90). This can be done through an electronic submission or through a paper form. It is best not to wait until the card has expired before requesting a renewal.

What happens if I am outside the US when my Green Card is about to expire?

If you are traveling outside the United States and your Green Card is about to expire, but you will return within a year of your departure, you can request renewal as soon as you return to the USA.

If your Green Card is about to expire and you are outside the US but you have not requested the renewal of your Green Card before leaving, you should visit the US Embassy or Consulate closest to the USCIS Office or the U.S. port of entry.

Can my replacement request for the Green Card be denied?

Yes it can be denied. When this happens, USCIS informs you through a letter that will include the reasons why your request was denied.

What should I do if my renewal application was not approved?

You can send a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision made. When submittig this, you ask the USCIS to review the decision and your request again.

What is the difference between a motion to reopen and a motion for reconsideration in the case of a denied Green Card?

By filing a motion to reopen, you claim that there are new facts or documents that you can provide if your case is reopened. When submitting a motion for reconsideration you state that the denial of your renewal request was an error, based on an incorrect application of the law or an incorrect evaluation of the documents submitted when the request was made.


We hope this article is useful for you. Remember that for any case related to immigration matters for you or a family member, Lluis Law immigration lawyers are at your disposal and help you solve all your questions.

We have extensive experience in representing immigrants in the Los Angeles area and South California. Call us now to get a free consultation.