How to Get a USA Green Card

Eric Rosenberg
How to Get a USA Green Card

People around the world look at the United States of America as a land of opportunity, but moving to the United States can be a major challenge. The culmination of efforts to move to the United States permanently comes in the form of a Green Card, or Permanent Resident Card. If you are looking to become a permanent resident, here are the steps you need to take.


What is a Green Card and What Does it Allow?

A Green Card, or Permanent Resident Card, gives an individual official legal immigrant status in the United States of America.

how to get a usa green card

A Green Card is the only legal path to permanent residency for immigrants. It gives the holder many rights, though these are not the same rights afforded to United States citizens.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the general rights and responsibilities of a Green Card holder include:

  • The right to live and work in the United States of America
  • The responsibility to follow all laws of the United States and state and local laws and ordinances
  • The requirement to file income tax returns and pay United States and state taxes
  • For males 18-25 years old, the requirement to register with military Selective Services

Voting is a right reserved only for citizens. Permanent residents may apply for citizenship after meeting citizenship requirements.


How to Get a Green Card

There are four general methods through which a non-resident can receive a Green Card, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The primary methods are through a family member, an employer, refugee or asylum status, or the permanent resident lottery.


1. Through a Family Member

To apply for a family-based Green Card, you must be the parent or spouse of a citizen, an unmarried child (under the age of 21) of a citizen, a family member of a citizen fitting into a preference category, or a member of a special category.

For a list of special categories that may result in eligibility, click here.


2. Through a Job

According to USCIS, there are four key methods of obtaining a Green Card through employment: a job offer, an investment, self-petition, or a specialized job.

Employer-sponsored Green Cards are given in order of preference based on qualifications. In general, workers must be highly skilled or hold unique, extraordinary abilities or qualifications.

Professionals holding advanced degrees are more likely to be approved for permanent resident status than unskilled workers. There are some exceptions for religious vocations and successful investors and entrepreneurs.

For further details on eligibility and proper documentation, visit the "Green Card Through a Job" page.


3. Through Refugee or Asylum Status

Refugees and asylum seekers may also apply for permanent residence status in the United States.

Individuals admitted to the country with refugee status are required by law to apply for a Green Card after one year living in the United States.

As an asylee, the USCIS notes that "you are not required to apply for permanent resident status after being granted asylum for one year, although it may be in your best interest to do so."


4. Through the Green Card Lottery

Outside of those common methods for gaining permanent resident status, an immigrant may be able to obtain a Green Card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, often referred to as the "Green Card Lottery."

Immigrants can file a petition and apply through the lottery system based on visa availability and a priority system based on application date, immigrant category, and country of origin. Immigrants must also pass a background check for health, criminal, security, and other considerations. To adjust status under this program, you must meet these eligibility criteria.

Be sure to check out our top 9 resources for U.S. immigrants!


Medical Insurance in the United States

Unlike in most other developed countries, in the United States, individuals are responsible for their own health insurance. As a lawfully-present immigrant, you are able to purchase medical insurance through an employer, directly through an insurer, or via the Marketplace.

how to get a usa green card

According to, "immigrants who are 'qualified non-citizens' are [also] generally eligible for coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), if they meet their state's income and residency rules."

Wherever you live in the world, your health is very important. And while the United States offers excellent medical care, without insurance, that care can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. As soon as you move to the United States, the first thing to do is sign up for quality healthcare.

As a recent U.S. citizen, however, you may have a waiting period before being able to receive Medicare or other government-sponsored health plans. A short-term medical insurance policy is a great option for a month or two while you get the rest of your new life in America in order.

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