Did you know that 577,000 people got issued green cards in 2019 alone?
At the same time, though, the government rejected many applications due to issues like failure to follow the proper instructions or pay all fees.
To have the most success, you'll have to follow the green card process steps very carefully and ensure you meet the requirements before you put in your application.
You'll also want to know what to do so that your green card interview goes well and you avoid further delays.
Read on to learn about the seven green card stages you'll go through.
1. Evaluate Your Situation
Before you begin looking more into the green card stages, consider your situation as the United States government offers many types of visas. Further, each has specific rules and requirements.
For example, you may qualify for a green card if you live abroad and have a spouse or other close family member in the United States.
You may also qualify if you have an employer ready to offer you a job or if you have a special situation such as being a refugee or abuse victim.
You'll also want to think about any steps you need to take before proceeding. For example, you may need to go through the immigration bond process if currently detained.
2. Learn More About the Visa Type You Need
After you've assessed your situation, check with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to get more information about the visa you need. This will show you all the requirements for the visa type.
For example, if you're applying for a family green card, you'll find the relationship and age requirements.
Employment green cards come in varieties based on different worker groups, and you'll learn about the skills, credentials, or funding you'll need to proceed.
You can also learn more about other visa types you may need before getting a green card, which is the case for human trafficking and crime victims.
3. Start the Immigrant Petition Process
You'll now need to have filed an immigrant petition based on the type of green card you're seeking.
Often, this means showing proof of sponsorship such as a family member or employer within the United States.
You can find the necessary petition forms through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
If you need sponsoring, then the sponsor will fill them out with information about their relationship with you, any job offer, and both your and the sponsor's personal information.
Once completed, the immigrant petition gets sent to the government for evaluation.
If approved, you'll get prompted to pay fees online and have an affidavit of support and financial documents sent in.
4. Complete Your Application Package
With your petition approved and fees paid, you'll hear back about whether you can proceed with the actual green card stage where you formally apply.
Called Form I-485, the application will ask all about your personal information such as your immigration history, address and employment history, and type of immigrant.
You'll also answer questions about your family, personal traits, and criminal history.
Along with sending your application to the government, you'll upload some civil documents to support your application.
This includes things like your birth certificate, passport, or other identification.
You'll need to get them translated if they're not in English.
5. Complete Pre-Interview Requirements
While you wait to hear back about an interview appointment, the government will have you complete the green card fingerprint stage.
You'll get a letter telling you when and where to go, and you'll also have your picture and signature taken at the visit.
You may receive photos and fingerprint cards that you'll need to hang onto.
You should then get information about a scheduled green card interview along with some more steps to take.
For example, you'll need a thorough medical exam to check for disqualifying health conditions. An approved doctor will have a form to fill out during the appointment.
You'll need to get all your documents together to show during the interview such as certified copies of civil documents. The government may also ask you to answer other questionnaires.
6. Attend the Interview
With your documents in hand and confirmation of your visa application, you'll need to arrive on time for the interview appointment.
You'll also bring along any family members who will come with you to the United States along with their documentation.
Expect the consulate or embassy worker to ask you thorough questions about your plans for coming to the United States.
Their job is to make sure that you have a legitimate reason and don't have any history that makes you a threat to the country.
They'll also ask questions about the documents you bring with you. You can expect to get those back at the end since the worker will have copies made.
7. Get Your Decision
While you can start checking your green card status a few days after the interview, you'll get a letter that informs you of official approval or denial.
If you get approved, you'll need to pay an immigration fee and will see your visa added to your passport.
Once you pay the fee, you'll get your actual green card and can enter the United States before the expiration date on your visa.
On the other hand, green card denial notices should come with further instructions on what went wrong so that you can try again.
For example, it could be a simple administrative error.
However, you just might not meet the requirements for a green card at the time.
Follow These Green Card Process Steps Carefully
Now that you know the green card process steps, you should have a clearer roadmap of this often complex journey.
But if you do run into issues along the way or have questions, you don't have to do it alone.
You might find it worth it to hire an immigration attorney who can assess your situation and offer advice on a successful application.
They can also help if you get denied or need help finding work to qualify for a green card.
Be sure to check out our other legal posts for more helpful advice.