Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card (PDF, 6.77 MB) allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation.
How to Apply for a Green Card
Before starting the application process, there are two questions that you should answer first:
1. Are you eligible to apply?
U.S. immigration laws provide a variety of ways for people to apply for a Green Card. The eligibility requirements may vary depending on the immigrant category you are applying under. Go to our Green Card Eligibility Categories to see all the possible categories you can apply under and what the eligibility requirements are.
Being Sponsored for a Green Card
Most people who apply for a Green Card will need to complete at least two forms—an immigrant petition and a Green Card application (Form I-485). Someone else usually must file the petition for you (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you), although you may be eligible to file for yourself in some cases. Here are the most common forms:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
- Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
- Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
Other petitions include:
- Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
- Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
- Form I-918, Petition of U Nonimmigrant Status
- Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant
Refer to your eligibility category to see if you need a petition.
2. Are you inside or outside the United States?
If you are eligible to apply for a Green Card, you then need to determine which process to use – adjustment of status or consular processing.
Where are you?
|What application process to use||Your next steps|
|In the United States||Adjustment of status with USCIS||
Go to our Adjustment of Status page for more information about the process of applying for a Green Card in the U.S.
Please see our video on updates to Form I-485.
|Outside the United States||Consular processing with the U.S. Department of State||Go to our Consular Processing page for the next steps|
General Application Process
The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation. However, here is the general application process that most applicants will go through:
- Someone usually must file an immigrant petition for you (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you). In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.
- After USCIS approves the immigrant petition, and there is a visa available in your category, you file either a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
- You go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature.
- You go to an interview.
- You receive a decision on your application.
If Your Green Card Application Is Pending with USCIS
If you already submitted a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and your case is pending with USCIS, go to our While Your Green Card Application Is Pending with USCIS page for more information on checking your case status, updating your address, and making appointments with USCIS.
How to Track Delivery of Your Green Card, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and Travel Document
- Sign up for a Case Status Online account to get automatic case updates, including your U.S. Postal Service (USPS) tracking number when we mail your card or travel document.
- Register for Informed Delivery through USPS to get daily images of mail being sent to you. With Informed Delivery, you can:
- Automatically track the packages you're expecting
- Set up email and text alerts
- Enter USPS Delivery Instructions™ for your mail carrier
If your USPS tracking information shows your package was delivered but you have not received it, contact your local post office immediately. Remember, we will mail your card or travel document to the address you provided on your application (unless you told us to mail it your representative on Form G-28, Notice of Entry or Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative).
If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and USPS as soon as possible. We recommend you use the USPS Look Up a ZIP Code tool to ensure that you give USCIS your full address using the standard abbreviations and formatting recognized by USPS.
If you don’t update your address promptly, your case could be delayed, your document(s) could get lost, and you may need to reapply and pay the fee again.
If You Already Have a Green Card
If you already have a Green Card, go to our After a Green Card is Granted page for more information on travel, renewing a card, and your rights and responsibilities as a Green Card holder