When you apply for a Green Card, or visa, you seek permission to work and live in the United States permanently. You can start this process if you already have temporary permission to stay in the U.S. 

Follow these steps as you prepare to submit an official Green Card application. 

File a petition

Your reason for coming to the U.S. determines your application category. For example, you may be eligible for immigration as a refugee, worker or family member of a U.S. citizen. 

If you are seeking a family Green Card, your family member must file your petition. Your employer must submit a work-related Green Card petition. Otherwise, you can submit your own petition. 

After you submit a petition, you must wait for notice of an available Green Card. Each eligibility category receives a certain number of visas each year. 

Complete the application

When a visa becomes available, you must submit Form I-485 along with a $1,225 filing fee. Depending on your category, you must also submit other documents as required. 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Application Support Center near you will contact you to schedule a fingerprinting appointment. At this session, you will also receive background checks and other security and health screenings. 

You may receive a date to return for a scheduled interview or requests for more paperwork. Once USCIS considers your application complete, the agency will make a Green Card decision. 

You should receive your decision within about three years of filing a petition. Successful applicants must renew their visas every decade. If you receive a denial, you have the right to file an appeal.