How to Apply for Green Card and Permanent Residence in the U.S.
Learn how to apply for Green Card to become a permanent resident, check your green card case status, bring a foreign spouse to live in the U.S. and what documents you need when traveling back to the U.S. Also, find out how to enter or check your results for the Diversity Visa Lottery program.
Apply for, Renew, or Replace a Green Card
What is a Green Card
Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card (PDF, 6.77 MB) allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation.
How to Apply for a Green Card
Before starting the application process, there are two questions that you should answer first:
1. Are you eligible to apply?
U.S. immigration laws provide a variety of ways for people to apply for a Green Card. The eligibility requirements may vary depending on the immigrant category you are applying under. Go to our Green Card Eligibility Categoriespage to see all the possible categories you can apply under and what the eligibility requirements are.
The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation. However, here is the general application process that most applicants will go through:
Someone usually must file an immigrant petition for you (often referred to as sponsoring or petitioning for you). In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself.
After USCIS approves the immigrant petition, and there is a visa available in your category, you file either a Green Card application with USCIS or a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
You go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photos, and a signature.
You go to an interview.
You receive a decision on your application.
If Your Green Card Application Is Pending with USCIS
If you already submitted a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and your case is pending with USCIS, go to our While Your Green Card Application Is Pending with USCIS page for more information on checking your case status, updating your address, and making appointments with USCIS.
How to Track Delivery of Your Green Card, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and Travel Document
Sign up for a Case Status Online account to get automatic case updates, including your U.S. Postal Service (USPS) tracking number when we mail your card or travel document.
Register for Informed Delivery through USPS to get daily images of mail being sent to you. With Informed Delivery, you can:
Automatically track the packages you’re expecting
Set up email and text alerts
Enter USPS Delivery Instructions™ for your mail carrier
If your USPS tracking information shows your package was delivered but you have not received it, contact your local post office immediately. Remember, we will mail your card or travel document to the address you provided on your application (unless you told us to mail it your representative on Form G-28, Notice of Entry or Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative).
If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and USPS as soon as possible. We recommend you use the USPS Look Up a ZIP Code tool to ensure that you give USCIS your full address using the standard abbreviations and formatting recognized by USPS.
If you don’t update your address promptly, your case could be delayed, your document(s) could get lost, and you may need to reapply and pay the fee again.
If You Already Have a Green Card
If you already have a Green Card, go to our After a Green Card is Granted page for more information on travel, renewing a card, and your rights and responsibilities as a Green Card holder
You can present a legal document issued in the United States for use in another country. These documents can include court orders, contracts, vital records, and educational diplomas.
The process to get a document authenticated depends on the specific document, the state in which it was issued, and other factors. Check with your state’s document authentication agency and the Authentications and Apostilles page from the Department of State (DOS).
The United States’ Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Lottery program allows for up to 50,000 immigrant visas to be awarded each year. It gives foreign nationals of countries that have low rates of immigration to the U.S. an opportunity to participate in a random drawing for the potential of getting an immigration visa. Check the State Department’s DV lottery site to learn more about the program.
Also known as the Green Card lottery, the DV program makes a limited number of immigrant visas available every year to people meeting certain eligibility requirements:
Results for the 2020 DV lottery will be available starting May 7, 2019.
Make sure you have your confirmation number to check your application status. You can only check your status by going online. The State Department will not send you a letter or an email about winning a Green Card. See the fraud warning below.
If You Are a DV Lottery Winner
If you are selected through the random lottery drawing, you can move forward in applying for an immigrant visa (Green Card).
If you have a question about your interview, call the Kentucky Consular Center, 1-606-526-7500, 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM ET.
The State Department wants DV lottery participants to know about scams involving fraudulent email and letters sent to DV program applicants. The U.S. government is the exclusive operator of the DV program. It may send you an email reminding you to check the status of your entry, but it will not contact you by email or letter to let you know if you are a winner. You have to check onlineyourself. The U.S. government will also never ask you to pay for your visa in advance by wire transfer, money order, or check.
Sponsor a Foreign Spouse, Future Spouse, or Relative
Your status determines who you can bring (sponsor) to live and work in the United States.
If you are a refugee or asylee within the past two years, you can petition for certain family members to obtain refugee or asylee status.
If you or a member of your family is in the U.S. military, you may petition for citizenship for family members.
Travel Documents for Foreign Residents Returning to the U.S.
If you have a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), or are a foreign citizen living in the U.S., you may need additional documents to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad. Obtain these necessary documents from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before your trip: