What is a Green Card?

A “green card” which is a United States Permanent Resident Card, grants authorization to non-U.S. citizen to legally live in the United States for an indefinite period of time. You can become a permanent resident several different ways. Most individuals are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States.

Other individuals may become permanent residents through refugee or asylee status or other humanitarian programs. In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself. It’s not the same as becoming a U.S. citizen, which involves the more rigorous process of naturalization and grants certain rights

Green Card Eligibility

Green cards are available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens; certain highly skilled workers; refugees and asylum seekers; certain long-time residents; and others meeting specific criteria. To meet the requirements for permanent residence in the United States, you must:

  • Be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • Have a qualifying immigrant petition filed and approved for you (with a few exceptions)
  • Have an immigrant visa immediately available
  • Be admissible to the United States

Although most immigrants come to live permanently in the United States through a family member’s sponsorship, employment, or a job offer, there are many other ways to get a green card.