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A Green Card is a US permanent resident permit. Guide the possible ways to get a Green Card, the benefits that permanent residents have and FAQs.

Many people who want to immigrate to another country first think of moving to the United States. It is a country which provides many opportunities for working and settling down. Its economic well-being attracts people from all corners of the world as visitors and potential immigrants. They are all asking themselves how to get a Green Card?

The Green Card is a document which allows you to move permanently to the US and stay there. With the Green Card you can move to any state in the US, find jobs to work and earn income, as well as settle down with your family.

Additionally, you can also travel in and out of the US. However, you are not allowed to stay outside of the US for more than one year, otherwise your Green Card will expire and you will have to go through the process of applying again.

What are the Types of Green Cards for USA?

There are different types of US Green Cards depending on your situation and how you will obtain it. There are basically four categories of Green Cards, each one with their separate visas and requirements:

  • Family sponsored Green Cards – this Green Card is given to you if you have close family in the US and you want to reunite with them. This type of Green Card is given only to immediate family, such as spouses, children, siblings, or parents of a US citizen or a US permanent resident.
  • Employment sponsored Green Cards – this Green Card is given to you if you have found a job in the US from your home country. Your employer will pay for the forms and application procedure and will sponsor you to stay in the US. With an employment-sponsored Green Card you are bound to that employer and you must work for that company until your contract expires. Only after your sponsorship conditions are completed, you can find a different job with a different employer.
  • Returning resident Green Card – this Green Card is for those who previously had a Green Card but travelled outside of the US and did not come back for more than one year for reasons beyond their control. Reasons beyond your control are if you have been detained in another country or are not being allowed to come back for family or cultural reasons. You must prove that you had no opportunity to come back through various documents to be granted this visa.
  • Diversity Visa Green Card – every year the US holds a visa lottery for citizens of countries with low immigration rates to the US. If you apply for this lottery and get a diversity visa, then you are on your way to getting a Green Card.

Do I Qualify to Apply for a Green Card?

For whichever USA Green Card you choose to apply, there are various requirements that you must fulfill. Each US immigrant visa has its own particular set of conditions that you must fulfill, but there are also a few that you must have for each visa, as detailed below:

  • You must live in a foreign country – most people seeking a Green Card must apply from their home country. If you are within the US, there are other requirements that you must meet.
  • If you are in the US, you must have a dual intent visa – a dual intent visa is one that is temporary, but allows you to apply for a Green Card after a certain period of time. An example of a dual intent visa is the H-1B visa.
  • For family-based Green Cards, you must have a family member living in the US – your family member must either be your fiancé/spouse, your child, your sibling, or your biological or adoptive parent. The family member must be a US citizen or a US permanent resident and willing to sponsor your application forms. Additionally, the family member must prove that they are financially able to support you for the first few months after you move to the US, until you find a job.
    • The family member must be at least 21 years old and must have a valid US address – if your family member is under 21 years old, then they are not allowed to sponsor you for a Green Card. Also, your family member must be currently living in the US and present a valid US address where you would also be moving once you get the Green Card.
  • For employment-based Green Cards, you must have a job offer – if you have found a job in the US, then you must have proof of it. This includes a signed contract or a signed letter from your employer stating when you will start working after you get your Green Card. Oral agreements are not accepted by any US institution when it comes to Green Cards, so make sure that you have a valid document which proves you have a job in the US.
    • Your employer must meet minimum conditions on financial stability – even if you have a job, you must make sure that your employer has enough money to pay your salary. The US institutions responsible for Green Cards and immigrant visas will request financial statements from the company sponsoring your visa. If the financial statements show that the employer does not have enough money to pay your salary, then you will not get an approved Green Card.
  • If you were in the US in the past, you must have respected all laws and regulations and not overstayed your visa.
  • You must not have a criminal past.

How to Apply for a Green Card?

After you have gone through the types of US immigrant visas, reviewed the requirements and decided which one you can apply for, you must start the Green Card process. For most Green Card applications, there are a few steps you must take, as follows:

Have a sponsor petition for you

Your sponsor must petition on your behalf – this petition can be from a family member or employer. The form for family-sponsored petitions is Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives, while the form for employment-based petitions is Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The petition must be filed with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Green Card fee must be paid.

Receive the NVC Package

If the petition is approved, NVC will send you a package – USCIS will go through the petition and will decide whether you qualify. If they approve your petition, your documents will go to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will send you a package to your country of residence. The package will contain all instructions and forms which you must fill out for your application. NVC will not send this package until your priority date is current.

Apply for a visa at the US embassy

You must apply for the visa at a US Embassy – following the instructions from the NVC package, you will pay all necessary application fees and apply at a US Embassy in your country of residence. You will submit supporting documents as well as have your visa interview.

Travel to the US

If your visa is approved, you must travel to the US with your arrival package – if after you have completed all the steps, your visa is approved, the US Embassy will give you an arrival package. You cannot open the arrival package but must bring it with you when you first travel to the US. Only a US immigration official at a port of entry is allowed to open it and decide whether you are allowed to enter the US or not. Remember that even if you have a visa, it does not guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the US. The immigration officials at any US port of entry have the authority to decide.

Once in the US, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form is the one which will get you the permanent residence card. After USCIS processes your request for one to four weeks, you will get your Green Card in the mail.

Traveling Abroad as a Green Card Holder

As a green card holder, you will have a restricted period within which you can remain outside the US. The standard period you can travel abroad is limited to one year. Though the duration of this period depends a lot on whether you intend to become a naturalized citizen or not.

Read: Countries That Green Card Holders Can Travel to Without a Visa

On the other hand, whether you can enter other countries visa-free or not it all depends on your nationality, and the visa policy between your home country and destination country. I.e. if you are planning to visit the Schengen countries in Europe, your nationality will determine whether you will have to apply for a Schengen Visa from the US or not.

Is Health Insurance for Green Card Holders Mandatory?

No, having health insurance is not mandatory for citizens or immigrants. However, it is strongly recommended to have some kind of coverage due to the high costs of healthcare in the US. Just a consultation with a doctor can reach hundreds of dollars, whereas hospitalization can set you back thousands of dollars per night, without including the cost of the medical treatment itself.

Here you can find more information about Health Insurance plans for Green Card holders in the United States.

What Are the Differences Between Green Card and a US Visa?

The difference between a Green Card and a visa is that the Green Card is permission to stay in the US permanently, while a visa is of temporary nature.

The differences between a visa and a green card are more than the similarities. As said above, the main thing you need to know is that an immigration visa can lead to a green card, while a green card can lead to a US citizenship, which is the highest status a foreigner can obtain in the US. However, a green card can be obtained in other ways too. Below find the differences between both:

The form

A Green Card is issued in the form of a green plastic photo identification card whereas a visa is issued in the form of a stamp or sticker affixed to a traveler’s passport.


A Green Card is Permanent, which means it does not expire, though it needs renewal every 10 years. Whereas, a visa is temporary but it still can be extended for another limited amount of time.


Green card holders are allowed to work. On the other hand, visa holders are not entitled to work if they are not on a specific type of visa work.

Living in the US

Green Card holders should be careful and not use this document as a multiple-entry visa, since their status may be revoked if they spend a lot of time outside the US, and use it as a second home. Whereas, visa holder, depending on the visa, may be entitled to enter the country once, or enter as many times as they want.

Similarities Between a Green Card and a Visa

In order to understand the differences between a Green card and a US visa it is best to know their similarities first, which are not that many:

  • Firstly, both a visa and a green card are issued by the United States Civil Immigration Authorities
    Secondly, both a visa and a green are issued to a foreign citizen.
  • Green Card holders and most Visa holders (aside of those entering the US under purposes as tourism, health treatment, training etc.) are allowed to work in the US.
  • If being found guilty of committing crimes the green card or visa would be revoked and the foreigner would be deported.
  • None of them are allowed to vote.
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