If you are planning to obtain the Green Card and become a permanent resident of the U.S. you need first to identify the category that you are part of and the specific steps you need to take and which differ depending on the category you qualify in. The main categories when applying for a Green Card are:

Green Card Through Family

You can receive a Green Card and the status of permanent resident of the U.S. through one of your family members if:

One of your immediate relative (spouse, unmarried child under 21 years old or parents, if you are over 21 years old) is a U.S. citizen.

One of your family members fits the criteria of one of the preference categories including: unmarried sons/daughters older than 21, married children – no matter the age, brothers and sisters.

Your spouse or an unmarried child has already obtained a green card

You are part of a special category such as widows (-ers) of U.S. citizens, V non-immigrants, K non-immigrants, persons that are born to a foreign diplomat in the U.S. or abattered spouse or child (VAWA).

Green Card Through a Job
The most popular way to immigrate in U.S. are usually connected to obtaining a job there. Obtaining a Green Card based on your job also includes more options:

Green Card obtained through a Job Offer –If you have an offer from an U.S. enterprise for a permanent job in the U.S. then you might qualify for a Green Card. The employer should get in this case a labor certification and also file a Form I-140 also known as an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

Green Card obtained through Investment:If you are an investor or an entrepreneur investing capital in a U.S. business creating new U.S. jobs, you might also qualify for a Green Card.

Green Card through Self Petition:If you have been granted a National Interest Waiver or you are considered an immigrant qualifying in the category of “Aliens with Extraordinary Ability”, you can apply for yourself (“self-petition”).

Green Card Through Special Categories of Jobs:You might be eligible for a Green Card if you are a religious worker, a physician that has been granted a National Interest Waiver, a Panama Canal employee, a non-immigrant from the NATO-6 category, an Iraqi assisting the United States Government or an Afghan/Iraqi translator, a broadcaster or an International Organization Employee, all of which are considered specialized jobs.

If you fit into this category you need to file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow (er), or a Special Immigrant, all of them detailed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Section 101(a)(27). You might also be able to apply by filing a Form I-140 or I-360 together with the Form I-485. This is called “concurrent filing.”

Petitions of the individuals that are not eligible to modify their U.S. status to a “permanent resident” status are generally sent to the U.S. consulate abroad as the next step in completing the process.

Green Card through Refugee or Asylee Status
You can apply for a Green Card if you already have a refugee or an asylee status.  If you have been admitted in the U.S. with the status of a refugee or if you are a family member of an asylee, then the next step is to apply for a green card 1 year after you have entered U.S.

If you have been granted asylum in the U.S., the next step would be to apply for permanent residence 1 year after you have been granted the asylum status.

Note: If you have entered the U.S. as a refugee, the law requires that you apply for a Green Card 1 year after being admitted to the U.S. If you have been admitted to the U.S. with an asylee status, this is not mandatory, but it might be in your best interest to apply for a permanent resident status after 1 year.

Who is a Green Card Holder (Permanent Resident)?
A permanent resident of the U.S. also called as a Green Card holder is someone who has applied for a permanent resident status and has been granted the authorization to permanently live and work in the U.S. The document commonly known as a Green Card or a permanent resident card is the legal proof of this status. There is more than one way to obtain the permanent resident status, from being sponsored by a member or your family, to obtaining a permanent job in the U.S. or being granted a refugee or asylee status. For more details regarding the process of obtaining a Green Card do not hesitate to contact us.

How to Apply To Renew a Green Card
Permanent U.S. residents that have a Green Card already know that it needs to be renewed after 10 years. This can be achieved by filing on-line the Form I-90 known as the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card or filing the Form I-90 in paper format, by email.

How to Renew a Green Card If You Are Outside the United States
For U.S. permanent residents which are outside the U.S. the renewal process depends on whether or not the resident will be back in the U.S. before the card expires. If the permanent resident returns within 1 year of his or her departure from the U.S. and before the expiration date, then it is safe to say the most efficient way is to file for renewal once he or she is back in the country.

If the resident is still outside the country when the card expires, without having applied for renewal previous to his or her departure, then the process of renewal includes contacting the nearest U.S. Consulate, USCIS office, or U.S. port of entry before filing Form I-90.

When to Renew a Green Card
The Green Card needs to be renewed by all permanent residents that have filed a Form I-1551 after 10 years from receiving it. You need to renew your Green Card when the card is expired or you know it will expire within the next 6 months.

Note: For conditional residents whose status is expiring, the proper form to file is the Form I-751 which is a Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. The purpose of the applying is in this case to remove the conditions on your permanent resident status.

How to Find Out the Status Of Your Application
If you want to check the status of your renewal application, you can do that online at My Case Status. If you have filed your renewal form on-line, take into consideration that e-filed receipt numbers are not generally available in “My Case Status” in the first 72 hours.

For any questions regarding immigration, you can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283. You will probably be asked specific information about your application so make sure you know the receipt number and your Alien Registration Number. You will also be asked to give your name and date of birth.

How to Appeal If Your Application Is Denied
In some cases the application of renewing a permanent resident card is denied. If this is the case, a letter will be sent to you explaining the reasons. While you can’t appeal if your application is denied, you can try reopening your case by submitting a motion to reopen or reconsider. Such a motion needs to be filed with the same office that gave you the negative answer and it represents a request to reexamine your application.

If you choose to file a motion to reopen, then you must also include in your request new facts to be taken into consideration if the case is reopened and also attach documentary evidence that sustain your statements.

If you choose to file a motion to reconsider, you need to establish in its content that the decision to deny your request was based on incorrect application of law or immigration policy based on what you had on file when the decision was made.

How to Apply to Replace Your Green Card
If your green card has not expired and will not expire within the next 6 months, but you need to replace it for various reasons, either you are a permanent resident or a conditional resident wanting to replace the two-year green card, you can do that by filing the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card either on-line, or in paper form, by mail.

Green cards lost outside U.S. need to be reported to the nearest U.S. consulate, USCIS office or port of entry before starting the process of obtaining another one and filing a Form I-90. If your request of renewal made through Form I-90 is approved, you will receive your replacement card by mail. The new card is valid 10 years from the date when it has been issued.

When to Replace a Green Card
There are actually a variety of situations in which you might need to replace your green card including:

Lost, stolen, destroyed or mutilated green cards or cards containing incorrect information.

Changes in your citizenship status such as from commuter to resident of the U.S., from permanent resident to commuter status or automatic conversion to permanent status, which is the case of Special Agricultural Worker applicants.

Changes in your personal data such as reaching 14 years old (unless your card expires before your 16th birthday), legal changes in your name or other biographic information included by the green card.

Previous version of the alien registration card such as USCIS Form AR-3, Form AR-103 or Form I-151 which are no longer valid and need to be replace with a current green card

The previous card issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has never arrived to you.

How to Find Out the Status Of Your Application
The status of the renewal application, no matter the reason triggering it, can be checked online at “My Case Status”. Additional information about immigration law can be received by phone from the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.  In order to offer you more information USCIS staff will require you specific details about your application (name, date of birth, receipt number, Alien Registration Number).

How to Appeal If Your Application Is Denied
Sometimes the renewal application is denied and in this case you will receive a letter explaining you why. Unfortunately, you can’t appeal a negative decision of renewal. But you can submit a motion to reopen the case or to reconsider. No matter the type of motion you decide to file, it needs to be filed at the same office that has denied your application.

If you choose to file a motion to reopen, then you must also include in your request new facts to be taken into consideration if the case is reopened and also attach documentary evidence that sustain your statements.

If you choose to file a motion to reconsider, you need to establish in its content that the decision was based on incorrect application of law or immigration policy based on what you had on file when the decision was made.