Apply for a US green card or lawful permanent resident card with the confidence of knowing all the basic requirements to determine whether you are eligible and how to do it yourself.


A lawful permanent residence status card and a green card refer to the I-551 allowing an individual the right to reside in the USA permanently, the right to a pathway to USA citizenship, the right to employment, and the right to the petition for eligible family members. These rights are granted to the green card holder as long as the individual abides by the immigration laws of the USA.

The green card requirements are based on a petition filed by either a family member, refugee/asylum, employment , investment, or diversity DV lottery program. Irrespective of the origin of the immigrant petition, the individual has to fulfill all the green card requirements

Under the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), there are four general requirements to obtain your green card. The individual has to be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in the INA, an approved immigrant petition filed, a visa is available, and the individual has to be admissible. In the simplistic form the USA green card requirements appear straightforward and manageable but the nuances of the INA require that each category be defined in detail.

For an individual to be eligible for one of the immigrant categories, the INA separates the categories into either family based, due to the eligible family member petitioning on one’s behalf, or through one’s employer. Immediate relatives such as a spouse, child, or parent are not subject to a category as they have visas available immediately. However, for those that are petitioning for an adult child, spouse of a green card holder, married adult child of a US citizen, or brothers and sisters of a US citizen, then there are preference categories requiring the person to wait until a visa becomes available.

Employment based immigrant petitions are relegated in a similar fashion as family petitions, except the categories are prioritized by professions and skills. For instance, a priority worker with extraordinary abilities would be in the first preference, professionals with advanced degrees are in the second preference, skilled workers are in the third preference, and the fifth preference is for investors and entrepreneurs. Just as the family based petitions, an individual falling into one of these categories must wait until a visa becomes available before moving forward to the next stage.

Individuals entering as a refugee are required to file for their green cards within a year of arrival. Contrarily, asylum applicants do not have to file within a year. Qualifying for refugee status or asylum is a complex process is beyond the scope of this article.

By initially filing the immigrant petition, the petitioner is establishing eligibility for a specific immigrant category and that the petitioner is eligible to apply for the beneficiary. The approval of the immigrant petition also creates a priority date for the beneficiary, which captures the slot so when the date becomes current the visa is made available to the individual.

The priority date and the country of nationality will determine how long the wait is until a visa is made available. It may take years to become current as only a certain number of visas are available for each preference category and in a specific country. Once the quota is filled for that year then the next group will have to wait until the following year. When the priority date is current, the individual may apply for a green card visa to the US.

At the US consulate where the individual applies for the green card, the consular officer will determine whether the individual is eligible for admission into the US. The INA clearly define certain grounds making an alien individual inadmissible, such as criminal convictions, infectious diseases, prior immigration violations or security related. If an individual is found to be inadmissible it is possible to apply for the I-601 waiver requesting the government to excuse the grounds of inadmissibility. Barring any other required paperwork or backlog on interview times, then USCIS/DHS will determine whether the individual met all the requirements for a green card.