How to Obtain Permanent Residency in the USA 2024

Obtaining permanent residency in the United States, commonly referred to as getting a Green Card, is a significant milestone for many immigrants. It allows individuals to live and work permanently in the U.S. and is a step toward U.S. citizenship. However, the process can be complex and time-consuming. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive guide to understanding and navigating the path to permanent residency in the USA.

Everything You need to Know About Permanent Residency

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants an individual the right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. It is a physical card that serves as proof of this status.

Benefits of Having a Green Card

  • Employment: Green Card holders can work for any employer in the U.S.
  • Travel: They can travel outside the U.S. with fewer restrictions compared to non-residents.
  • Education: Eligibility for financial aid and scholarships for education.
  • Path to Citizenship: After a certain period, Green Card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship.
  • Family Sponsorship: Green Card holders can sponsor certain family members for their own Green Cards.

Pathways to Permanent Residency

There are several ways to obtain a Green Card, each with its own requirements and processes. The main categories include:

  1. Family-Based Green Cards
  2. Employment-Based Green Cards
  3. Diversity Visa Lottery
  4. Refugee or Asylum Status
  5. Other Special Categories

Family-Based Green Cards

Immediate Relatives

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have priority and do not face numerical limits on visas. This category includes:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens
  • Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old

Family Preference Categories

Other relatives fall under the family preference system, which is subject to annual numerical limits. These categories include:

  • First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, 21 years and older
  • Second Preference (F2A): Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents
  • Second Preference (F2B): Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years and older) of lawful permanent residents
  • Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, where the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old

Process for Family-Based Green Cards

  1. Filing the Petition: The U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  2. Approval of Petition: Once approved, the petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
  3. Visa Availability: For preference categories, wait until a visa becomes available.
  4. Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status:
    • If outside the U.S., go through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
    • If inside the U.S., file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Employment-Based Green Cards

Employment-based Green Cards are divided into five preference categories:

EB-1: Priority Workers

  • Extraordinary Ability: Individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • Outstanding Professors and Researchers: Those who are internationally recognized in their academic fields.
  • Multinational Executives and Managers: Executives or managers who have worked for a multinational company.

EB-2: Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability

  • Advanced Degree: Professionals with a higher degree or its equivalent.
  • Exceptional Ability: Individuals with exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business.

EB-3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers

  • Skilled Workers: Jobs requiring at least two years of training or experience.
  • Professionals: Jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Other Workers: Unskilled labor requiring less than two years of training or experience.

EB-4: Special Immigrants

  • Religious Workers: Members of religious denominations working for non-profit religious organizations.
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles: Certain minors who need protection from a juvenile court.
  • Other Special Immigrants: Includes broadcasters, international organization employees, and more.

EB-5: Immigrant Investors

  • Investment: Individuals who invest at least $1.8 million (or $900,000 in targeted employment areas) in a new commercial enterprise that creates at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

Process for Employment-Based Green Cards

  1. Labor Certification: For certain categories, the employer must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL).
  2. Filing the Petition: The employer files Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with USCIS.
  3. Approval of Petition: Once approved, the petition is sent to the NVC for processing.
  4. Visa Availability: Wait until a visa becomes available according to the preference category and country of origin.
  5. Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status:
    • If outside the U.S., go through consular processing.
    • If inside the U.S., file Form I-485.

Diversity Visa Lottery

The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program provides up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. The process involves:

  1. Eligibility: Check if you are from an eligible country and meet the education or work experience requirements.
  2. Entry: Submit an entry during the annual registration period (usually in October) through the DV Lottery website.
  3. Selection: If selected, complete Form DS-260 and attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  4. Approval: Upon approval, receive an immigrant visa and travel to the U.S. to become a permanent resident.

Refugee or Asylum Status

Individuals who have been granted refugee or asylum status can apply for a Green Card one year after being admitted to the U.S. as a refugee or granted asylum.

Process for Refugees

  1. Application: File Form I-485.
  2. Supporting Documents: Submit required documents, including proof of refugee status.
  3. Approval: Attend an interview (if required) and receive a Green Card upon approval.

Process for Asylees

  1. Application: File Form I-485.
  2. Supporting Documents: Submit required documents, including proof of asylee status.
  3. Approval: Attend an interview (if required) and receive a Green Card upon approval.

Other Special Categories

Other categories for obtaining a Green Card include:

  • U Visa: For victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement.
  • T Visa: For victims of human trafficking.
  • VAWA: For victims of abuse by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent.

General Steps in the Green Card Process

Regardless of the pathway, the general steps to obtain a Green Card typically involve:

  1. Eligibility: Determine the category you qualify for and ensure you meet the specific requirements.
  2. Filing the Petition: Submit the appropriate petition (e.g., Form I-130, Form I-140) to USCIS.
  3. Approval: Wait for USCIS to approve the petition.
  4. Visa Availability: Check the Visa Bulletin to see if a visa is available for your category.
  5. Application for Green Card: Submit Form I-485 if you are in the U.S. or complete consular processing if you are outside the U.S.
  6. Biometrics Appointment: Attend an appointment for fingerprinting and photographs.
  7. Interview: Attend an interview at a USCIS office or U.S. embassy/consulate (if required).
  8. Decision: Receive a decision on your Green Card application.
  9. Receive Green Card: If approved, receive your Green Card and become a lawful permanent resident.

Tips for a Successful Application

Stay Organized

  • Keep copies of all forms and documents submitted.
  • Track deadlines and important dates.
  • Respond promptly to any requests for additional information.

Seek Legal Advice

  • Consider hiring an immigration attorney to help navigate the process, especially for complex cases.
  • Ensure that all information provided is accurate and complete to avoid delays or denials.

Prepare for the Interview

  • Review your application and be prepared to answer questions about your background and eligibility.
  • Bring all required documents to the interview.

Follow Up

  • Monitor the status of your application through the USCIS website.
  • Address any issues or requests for additional information promptly.


Obtaining permanent residency in the USA is a multifaceted process with various pathways to explore. Whether through family sponsorship, employment, the Diversity Visa Lottery, refugee or asylum status, or other special categories, understanding the requirements and steps involved is crucial. By staying organized, seeking legal advice when needed, and following through with all necessary procedures, you can successfully navigate the journey to becoming a U.S. permanent resident.

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