It’s hard to understand immigration without understanding the process that immigrants have to weave their way through in order to maintain a stay in another country.
“It is a serious process,” said Jane Cowley, public affairs officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Philadelphia. “It is not a process to be undertaken lightly, but it’s doable.”
Sometimes that process can be confusing or daunting, but a dedicated individual sees that challenge as an opportunity.
Step 1: Determine your eligibility
- Eligibility categories include green card through family, through employment, as a special immigrant, refugee or asylee status, for human trafficking and crime victims, victims of abuse, through other categories or registry.
Step 2: Find someone to sponsor and file an immigration petition for you
- Petition forms are also broken into categories. Most of which require an approval of the immigration petition form prior to filing the actual Green Card application, known as Form I-485. Some categories do allow for concurrent filing of the petition and application.
Step 3: Check visa availability
- Before filing the Green Card application, a visa in your category must be available. Visas are issued through the U.S. Department of State and are limited each year. Family-sponsored and employment-based visas are limited to 226,000 and 140,000 respectively. These numbers can be carried over from previous years when not fully utilized, but there are additional restrictions to the number of visas issued per country of origin as well.
Step 4: File Form I-485
- If your immigrant category did not allow for concurrent filing, and your immigrant petition has been approved, then you are now ready to apply for a Green Card.
Step 5: Biometric services appointment
- Don’t worry, that’s just a fancy way of saying that you need to show up at your local Application Support Center for an appointment to acknowledge that all of your application information is legit. Biometric services include your fingerprints, photograph and signature. These may even be completed by an outside agency.
Step 6: Go to your interview
- Not all cases will require a sit-down interview, but when they do, the applicant will be required to bring all original documentation. If a family member filed the immigrant petition for you, then they are required to attend this interview as well.
Step 7: Send in additional information (if applicable)
- The officer reviewing your case may request additional evidence that must be submitted in a timely manner in order to keep your application open.
Step 8: Check your case status
- You may call 800-375-5283 or visit egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do to check the status of your application.
Step 9: Receive a decision
- If approved, you will receive an approval notice followed by your actual Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) shortly after. Adjustment of status denials typically cannot be appealed, but an applicant may still be eligible to file a motion to reopen or reconsider.
The Permanent Resident Status does not expire, but the Green Card itself will have to be renewed every 10 years. After five years of continuous residence in the United States under the Permanent Resident Status (Green Card), a person may be eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalization and become an official United States citizen.
– Text and images by George Means