Requirements for a US Green Card

In order for you to be able to live and work in the United States legally, you are required to obtain a green card. There are various categories under which you can apply to get a green card, and they all come with specific requirements. Understanding the green card requirements is vital in order for you to complete the process and get your green card. 

This article will guide you through the green card categories and requirements for each of them, as well as guide you through the process in general. After reading this text, meeting the green card requirements will be a piece of cake, stay tuned!

US green card requirements

In order for you to obtain your green card, also known as permanent residence status, there are requirements that must be met. Depending on the category under which you are applying, there can be different requirements, but you can find the general ones listed below.

  1. You need to find your eligibility category 
  2. An immigrant petition must be filed in your name – you need to find a sponsor
  3. File your application with USCIS
  4. Attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, biometric photos, and a signature
  5. Attend your interview
  6. Receive the decision

In most cases, all applicants are required to fill out two forms – the immigrant petition and Green Card application (form I-485). Depending on the eligibility category, the petition forms are different, and they are listed below the table.

Furthermore, after finding your eligibility category you have to determine which process to use for applying. If you are residing in the US at the moment of applying, the process to use is Adjustment of status, and if you are outside the US, the process for you is Consular processing. Visit the links for further information.

What are the requirements to get a green card?

First of all, it is important to understand the eligibility categories under which you can apply for a green card. This is important because not all categories list the same requirements. It is also important because not all categories have readily available visas at all times. 

Consult the table below to find the category under which you can apply.

Eligibility category Applying as/under
Family Immediate relatives of US citizens; other relatives of a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident; fiancé(e) or the fiancé(e)’s child (of a US citizen); widow(er) of a US citizen; VAWA self-petitioner
Employment Immigrant workerPhysician National Interest WaiverImmigrant investor
Special Immigrant Religious workerSpecial Immigrant Juvenile; Afghanistan or Iraq national; International broadcasterInternational organization employee or employee’s family member or NATO-6 employee or family member
Refugee or Asylee StatusAsyleerefugee
Human Trafficking and Crime VictimsHuman trafficking victimcrime victim
Victims of AbuseVAWA self-petitioner; Special Immigrant Juvenile; abused spouse or child under the Cuban Adjustment Act; abused spouse or child under the HRIFA
Other Categories Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness; Diversity Immigrant Visa Program; Cuban Adjustment Act; abused spouse or child under the Cuban Adjustment Act; dependent status under the HRIFA; abused spouse or child under the HRIFA; Lautenberg parolee; Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act of 2000; American Indian born in Canada; person born in the United States to a foreign diplomat; Section 13 (diplomat)
Registry If you have resided in the US continuously since before January 1, 1972

Requirements for a green card – petition forms

When it comes to an immigrant petition, someone else usually must file it for you. You can find the most commonly requested forms listed below. Still, it is advisable to go over the eligibility categories and requirements to see if and what petition needs to be filed.

  1. Form I-130 – Petition for Alien Relative
  2. Form I-140 – Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
  3. Form I-730 – Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
  4. Form I-589 – Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
  5. Form I-360 – Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
  6. Form I-526 – Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
  7. Form I-918 – Petition of U Nonimmigrant Status
  8. Form I-929 – Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

Requirements to get a green card – medical examination

Another thing to keep in mind is that all applicants are required to undergo a medical examination at a certified physician’s (also known as a civil surgeon). Examinations prices vary from physician to physician, and you can consult the myUSCIS Find a Doctor website to find one closest to you.

Requirements for a green card application – fees

Another important thing when it comes to applying for a US green card are the fees involved. Besides having to pay for a medical examination, there are two other main fees to keep in mind. 

One of the steps in the process of applying for a green card is attending a biometrics appointment during which you submit your photos, fingerprints and a signature. The service fee for biometrics is $85, and is required for all applicants aged 14-79.

The other fee concerns Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). For adults (people up to the age of 13), the fee is $1,140. For children aged 13 and younger the fee is $750 if applying with a parent’s I-485, whereas if they are applying without a parent’s form, the fee remains $1,140. 

Green card application requirements summed up

Though all of this may seem like a lot and can be an overwhelming process, if you do proper research and file everything on time, you should have no problems with the overall green card application process. You will have to file Form I-485, an immigrant petition (someone else does it for you), undergo a medical examination, and attend a biometrics appointment. 

The requirements above are the general ones all applicants must meet. Furthermore, depending on the category under which you are applying, additional forms and petitions may be required, which is why it is vital you thoroughly understand the requirements for each category.

Finally, the application process is not free, which is why you need to prepare to pay upwards of $1,200. The fees all applicants must pay include the filing fee, biometrics appointment fee, and the fee for a medical examination.


What are the requirements for applying for a green card?

You will have to file Form I-485, provide biometric information, attend an interview and a medical examination. Additionally, depending on the category under which you are applying there may be other forms or petitions that need to be filed as well. Consult the article for more detailed information. 

What is the easiest way to get a green card?

There is no easy way – all applicants must go through the same process. You can find the process in general and useful links in the article above.

How long do you have to be in the US to get a green card?

You do not need to physically be in the US in order to apply for a green card. If you are applying from another country, there is a process called Consular processing which is how you start your application process.

Where can you take a US green card photo?

When it comes to obtaining a green card photo, then you have multiple choices. You can either go to a photograph, go to a photo booth or take the photo yourself. With a professional online photo tool such as eGreenCardPhoto you can take your own green card photo in a matter of seconds!