The Different Ways to Get a Green Card

When you’re looking to become a full-fledged citizen of the United States of America there’s a lot to consider. 

From the cost to the various forms to fill out and eligibility, obtaining citizenship can be a very stressful and drawn-out experience. Becoming a US citizen will require a lot of time and patience, and the first step to becoming a citizen is to obtain a green card.

In this article, we’ll explain what exactly a green card is to clear up any confusion and discuss some of the ways you can obtain citizenship, like through marriage, possible wait times, and more. If you’re looking to become a US citizen then read on.

What is a Green Card?

Ways to Get a Green CardA green card is similar to an ID that holds a lot of information you might find on one, such as your date of birth and name, though it also has your country of origin and how long you’ve been living in the US. 

It allows a person not originally from the United States to legally work and live there and, after three to five years, to become a citizen. While this may sound similar to a visa at first, in reality, the visa is designed for short, temporary stays, whereas a green card allows permanent residence and citizenship eligibility.

Now that you understand what a green card is and what makes it different from a visa, we can discuss how long it may take to obtain one and the different ways to do so.

Examining the Green Card Wait Time

From beginning to end, obtaining a green card will take some time. Some application types have limits as to how many can be issued in a year, and if you happen to apply after the limit has been reached, you’ll have to wait until at least a year has passed. While it could take only a year or two for some people, it could take quite a bit longer for others.

Some requests, such as those from marriage, can be issued relatively quickly, whereas others, such as those from employment, vary based on how in demand the visa is and could take anywhere from a few months to a few years. A few, like the returning resident visa, have no limit. You’ll know immediately whether or not you’ve obtained your green card again.

Obtaining a Green Card

There are many ways to obtain a green card, though some are more accessible than others. For example, while you may be able to apply from one of the other categories, you aren’t likely to get one through the registry, since that requires you to have lived in the United States before January 1, 1972.

One of the more well-known and established ways to become a green card holder is through a family member who already is a United States citizen. This includes having a spouse who lives in the US, is under the age of 21, and has a parent who is a citizen or if you are a parent of a citizen who is over the age of 21. While these are the most well-known ways to obtain a green card using this method, they’re far from the only ones. 

If you had a spouse who was a citizen who passed away after you were married, are the fiancé or child of a fiancé who is a citizen, have other relatives who are US citizens, or are a victim of abuse while also being related to a citizen. While each category has further criteria you must meet, these are all methods of obtaining a green card by being related to a US citizen in some way.

There are also ways to obtain a green card based on your employment. If you are an immigrant worker, an immigrant investor, or a physician with a national interest waiver, you may also qualify for a green card. There are many other ways, such as being a religious worker, an asylum seeker or refugee, being the victim of abuse or crime, or falling into one of the many other, more specific categories.

There are many ways to obtain a green card, and understanding which category you fall into may be complicated, especially if you are applying from outside the US. To make this process a bit easier, you can obtain one through consular processing

There are some prerequisites you must meet, but once that’s done you can utilize consular processing to walk you through each step, from determining your eligibility to receiving the card.

Paying the Fees

Of course, applying for a green card isn’t free, and the fees differ depending on whether or not you live in the US. 

If you live in the US and are applying for a green card, you’ll have to pay three different fees: Form I-130, the petition for an alien relative, Form I-485, the application to register permanent residence or adjust status, and the biometric fee. Without including doctor’s fees, this will all add up to $1760.

If you’re applying from outside the United States, you’ll still need I-130, but you’ll also need form I-864, which is the affidavit of support, and you’ll have to pay the US Department of State visa and processing and the USCIS immigrant fees. Before doctor’s fees, this will result in a cost of $1,200. Remember that while you may have to fill out these forms, there may be others you must also fill out, and these will have their own fees as well.

You now understand what a green card is, the methods of obtaining one, how long your wait time may be, and some of the fees you can expect to pay. While we hope this article helped you understand the road that lies ahead if you’re seeking US citizenship, it is a complicated and lengthy process. 

Luckily, it is also a well-documented one, so there are plenty of resources out there to help you if this article doesn’t answer your specific questions. Hopefully, though, we’ve at least made the process clearer and less intimidating for you.