Obtaining Permanent Residence in the United States of America

Permanent Resident card

If you wish to remain in the United States permanently, you must file Form I -485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, commonly called a Green Card. You may file this form simultaneously with Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker for no additional fee.

There are eight categories of applicants eligible to apply for a Green Card.

  • Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • Nationality Status Applicants (e.g. residents of Micronesia, Palau or the Marshall Islands)
  • Foreign Students
  • Eligible Dependents of Diplomatic Missions, International Organizations or NATO
  • Employment Based Non immigrants
  • Family Based Non immigrants
  • EAD Applicants Seeking Adjustment of Status
  • Other Categories (e.g. individuals appealing deportation)

Green Cards for most categories of applicants are subject to annual quotas for certain categories; each country also has a set allotment of available visa slots.

If you qualify for the following categories, you may receive priority processing of your Green Card application:

In most instances, you must obtain a Green Card before entering the United States. You must submit the following documentation to obtain a Green Card. All documents must be in English, or must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

To apply for a visa, you must present the following documents:

  • Completed Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (PDF)
  • Birth Certificate (for all family members applying for Green Cards -- must include full name, date and place of birth, names of both parents and official certification)
  • Court and Prison Records (if applicable)
  • Form I-212, Permission to Reapply After Deportation (if you were previously deported from the United States)
  • Marriage Certificates (if applicable)
  • Marriage Termination Documentation (if previously married and applying as an eligible spouse or intended spouse)
  • Military Records (if applicable)
  • Petitioner Documents (applicants for IR5 - Parent of a U.S. Citizen visas)
  • Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page
  • Two (2) identical color photographs meeting photograph requirements
  • Biometric fingerprints (for applicants between the ages of 14 and 79)
  • Police Certificates (for each applicant age 16 or older)
  • Adoption Documentation (for adopted children, if applicable)
  • Immigration Medical Examination
  • Affidavit of Support (from your sponsoring relative)

Family Members

If you are an immediate relative of an American citizen, you may be able to submit Form I-485 at the same time your sponsoring relative submits Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. You may submit your application either before coming to the United States or while you are legally present within the country.

Visas for immediate family members of United States citizens are not subject to quotas. However, quotas for other family categories are subject to quotas according to preference categories. When visa limits are reached, cutoff dates are set, and applications received after the cutoff date will not receive a Green Card. The preference categories for family sponsored visas are ranked below:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult (21 years of age or older) children of U.S. citizens
  • Second Preference A: Spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents
  • Second Preference B: Unmarried children (21 years or age or older) of permanent residents
  • Third Preference: Married children of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children
  • Fourth Preference: Siblings of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children

Fiancé(e) Visas

You may also obtain a Green Card by applying for a Fiancé(e) Visa if:

  • Your intended spouse is a United States citizen
  • Both you and your intended spouse must be single and free to marry one another
  • Must have met one another at least once no more than two years prior to your application
  • You may apply for a waiver of this requirement if religious or social customs strictly forbid meeting an intended spouse or if you can prove that you would suffer extreme hardship because of this requirement

You must marry your intended spouse within 90 days after entering the country. If you do not marry within 90 days, you must leave the United States before your visa expires. A Fiancé(e) Visa cannot be extended under any circumstances.

If you have dependent children under age 21, you may be able to bring them with you to the United States.

Once the fiancé(e) visa has been issued, you may apply for permission to work by completing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

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