How to Gain Permanent Residence in the U.S.
- Apply for, Renew, or Replace a Green Card
- Authenticate a U.S. Document for Use in Another Country
- Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (Green Card Lottery)
- Sponsor a Foreign Spouse, Future Spouse, or Relative
- Travel Documents for Foreign Residents Returning to the U.S.
Apply for, Renew, or Replace a Green Card
A Green Card (Permanent Resident Card):
- Entitles you to certain rights and responsibilities
- Gives you official immigration status in the United States
- Is required if you want to naturalize as a U.S. Citizen
If you have questions about applying for, renewing, or replacing a Green Card, contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Authenticate a U.S. Document for Use in Another Country
You may be required to present a legal document issued in the United States for use in another country. These documents can include court orders, vital records, contracts, and educational diplomas. To verify signatures, seals, stamps on these documents, they need to be authenticated.
Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (Green Card Lottery)
The Diversity immigrant Visa (DV) program allows for up to 55,000 immigrant visas to be awarded every year. Foreign nationals of nations with low rates of immigration to the U.S. can participate in a random drawing for the potential of obtaining an immigrant visa (Green Card). Check the State Department’s Diversity Visa site to learn additional about the program.
Sponsor a Foreign Spouse, Future Spouse, or Relative
Your status determines who you will be able to bring (sponsor) to live and work in the U.S.
If you are a citizen of the U.S., you can sponsor:
- Your foreign children
- Your foreign spouse or future spouse
- Certain immediate relatives, such as parents or siblings
If you are a permanent resident, you can sponsor:
- Your foreign spouse
- Your unmarried children (regardless of age)
If you have been a refugee or asylee within the past two years, you can petition for certain family members to obtain refugee or asylee status.
If you or a family member of yours is in the U.S. military, you may petition for citizenship for family members.
Travel Documents for Foreign Residents Returning to the U.S.
You may need additional documents to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad if:
- You have a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
- You are a foreign citizen living in the U.S., or
You should obtain these necessary documents before your trip. You can get them from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Permanent Residence (Green Card)
Permanent Residents (often called green card holders) are authorized to live and work on a permanent basis in the U.S. Whereas most nonimmigrants must document their intent to depart the U.S. after a period in the U.S., green card holders should have the intent to remain in the U.S.
There are several ways to obtain permanent residency in the U.S, including:
- A petition from an employer
- The employment-based green card application system allows for five preference categories, commonly abbreviated as EB-1, EB-2, etc. Each preference category may have several sub-categories.
- Marriage to a U.S. citizen
- Sponsorship by a close relative who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
- The U.S. Department of State diversity lottery program.
While each application process ultimately leads to the same goal, the green card, the application procedures and associated costs vary. The timeline for completing a green card application heavily depend on the type of application as well as the country of birth of the applicant. Applications under the first employment-based preference category might be completed in as little as 6-8 months, whereas the process for individuals born in India or mainland China under the second and third preference categories will take years. Please consult with FSIS to discuss the timeline of a given green card application.