A green card identifies its holder as a U.S. permanent resident, with rights to enter, exit, work, and live in the United States for their entire life — and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. But before you think about applying for U.S. permanent residence, make sure you’re eligible under one of the following categories.

1. Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

Immediate relatives are at the top of the list when it comes to qualifying for green cards and receiving them quickly. This category includes:

  • spouses of U.S. citizens, including recent widows and widowers; also including same-sex spouses, if the marriage is considered legally valid in the state or country where it took place
  • unmarried people under age 21 with at least one U.S. citizen parent
  • parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is at least age 21
  • stepchildren and stepparents of U.S. citizens, if the marriage creating the stepparent/stepchild relationship took place before the child’s 18th birthday, and
  • adopted children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, if the adoption took place before the child reached age 16 and other conditions are met.