Updated 6 months ago

Living and settling in the U.S. is still a dream for millions of people around the globe. Obtaining the green card (i.e. permanent residency) allows you to live and work in the U.S. permanently, with certain conditions. This card is proof that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted you permanent residence. The rights and obligations of green card holders are in all respects identical to those of American citizens except that you have no right to vote or serve as a juror. You must keep your card with you at all times.

Eligibility Criteria

Before you apply for a green card you must determine your eligibility. The most common criteria are through familial relationships or sponsorship through employment. Those living in the U.S. under a refugee or asylum seeker status for at least one year are also eligible to apply.

Immediate family members of U.S. citizens, as well as fiancees, widowers and their children, are all eligible to apply for green cards through a family sponsorship. Employment applications are also permitted and fall under different tiers of preference. Priority workers include professors, researchers, multinational executives, and managers. Entrepreneurs who are actively investing in U.S. commercial enterprises and physicians agreeing to work in underserved areas are may apply under the employment category.

General Procedure

Although there are different types of eligibility, the general application process is the same. You will have to meet several requirements established by U.S. laws.

First, the family member or employer (called the sponsor) must file an immigrant petition on your behalf. Once USCIS approves the petition, you may file a green card application. There is a finite number of visas that apply each year for every category of expatriates. Note that you will be placed on a priority list based on your application through a sponsoring family member, a job or other special category. Next, your fingerprints and photo will be taken at a biometrics appointment and you’ll attend another appointment for an interview with a USCIS officer. Once these steps have been completed you’ll receive a decision on your application.


You must satisfy the immigration and consular officers’ criteria to be admissible in the U.S. and to be able to obtain permanent residence. Certain mental and physical health issues, previous immigration violations, or criminal violations are grounds for denial. The inability to prove a sufficient income to support yourself may also cause your application to be denied. If your application is denied for one of these reasons, it is recommended that you speak with an immigration attorney as some waivers are permitted.

 Good to know: The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) grants up to 50,000 green cards annually for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. Recipients are selected by random lottery.

 Useful links:

US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Diversity Lottery DV Program 

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.