The basics of obtaining a green card

Foreign citizens hoping to live permanently in the United States have several options. If the person is currently living in the United States, the most common choice is to obtain a permanent resident card, commonly called a green card.

A green card is not the same as becoming a naturalized citizen, but it allows the holder to reside permanently in the United States. The process for obtaining a green card is ostensibly simple, but the actual path has a number of hazards that must be successfully negotiated.

To be eligible for a green card, a person must be living in the United States or, if living in a foreign country, have a qualified family member living in the United States. Applicants living in the United States must have a bona fide job offer in the United States, or certain qualifications in one of several specified categories. The application process begins with the filing of Form I-485 according to the instructions printed on the form. The filing fee of $1,140 must be paid when the application is filed. Most importantly, the applicant must provide documentary evidence verifying the applicant’s filing status in one of the categories listed above.

After the application has been filed and reviewed by the Customs and Immigration Service, the applicant will receive a written notice confirming receipt of the application, a notice of the date for a biometric examination, and a notice of the date set for an interview by an immigration officer. The USCIS will then provide later notification to the applicant of the agency’s decision.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the green card application process, many applications go awry. The process may vary depending upon the applicant’s immigrant status, or an applicant may make an inadvertent error in submitting supporting documentation. Also, the supporting evidence may be lost or altered during the application process. The services of an experienced immigration attorney can be very useful in overcoming these roadblocks.