Having a Green Card (officially known as a Permanent Resident Card allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation.
Citizenship and Naturalisation
Citizenship is a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions an immigrant can make. Depending on your situation, there may be different ways to obtain citizenship.
· Naturalisation is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a lawful permanent resident after meeting the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
· Acquisition of citizenship is obtained through U.S. citizenship parents either at birth or after birth, but before the age of 18.
Each Green Card category will have specific steps and procedures to follow. Listed below are some general processes and procedures to help you apply either while in the United States (known as “adjustment of status”) or while outside the United States (known as “consular processing”).
1. Green Card Eligibility Categories
Determine if you are eligible for permanent residence. Review the eligibility requirements needed before applying for your Green Card.
2. Adjustment of Status
Adjusting your status to a permanent resident is the process immigrants use to get a Green Card while in the United States.
3. Consular Processing
Consular processing is the method immigrants use to get their Green Card when outside the United States or when ineligible to adjust status in the United States.
4. Concurrent Filing
When getting a Green Card through employment, family, or as a special immigrant, someone may need to file a petition for you. Concurrent filing is generally when the immigrant petition is filed at the same time you file your application to get a Green Card. Learn what concurrent filing is and what categories are eligible to concurrently file.
5. Visa Availability and Priority Dates
In general, a visa must be available for you before you can apply for a Green Card. In some categories, visas are always available, while in others, there are a limited number. Priority dates are given to immigrants waiting in line to get an immigrant visa and determine when a visa becomes available. Learn how to tell if a visa is available to you.
6. Travel Documents
Learn more about if and when you can travel outside the United States after applying for a Green Card or once you have a Green Card. You can also learn how to apply for advance parole, a Refugee Travel Document, and a re-entry permit.
7. Employment Authorisation Document
Learn more about if you are eligible for work authorisation in the United States and how to apply for an Employment Authorisation Document (EAD).
8. Immigration Medical Examinations
Most applications for a Green Card require a medical exam. Learn about who must complete a medical exam and the specific forms and procedures that you must follow.
9. Affidavit of Support
An affidavit of support is a form that a sponsor files on your behalf when you are applying for a Green Card or immigrant visa. It is required for some (but not all) categories of immigrants before they can become a permanent resident of the United States. The purpose of the form is to show you have the financial means to live in the United States without needing welfare or financial benefits from the U.S. government.
10. Public Charge
To get a Green Card, most immigrants must show that they will not become a public charge.
11. Child Status Protection Act
Your age can determine whether you are eligible for a Green Card as a “child.” The Child Status Protection Act, often referred to as CSPA, allows certain children who have aged out (become 21 years or older) after an immigrant petition has been filed to still be eligible for a Green Card through their parents.
Find the eligibility category that fits your immigration situation, research how to apply, and learn whether your family members can also apply with you.
Green Card through Family
Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. You are eligible to apply if you are:
· Spouse of a U.S. citizen
· Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
· Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
Other relative of a U.S. citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under the family-based preference categories
· Family member of a U.S. citizen, meaning you are the:
o Unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you are 21 years old or older
o Married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
o Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
· Family member of a lawful permanent resident, meaning you are the:
o Spouse of a lawful permanent resident
o Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident
o Unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident 21 years old or older
Green Card through Employment
Immigrant worker. You are eligible to apply if you are:
· Are a first preference immigrant worker, meaning you:
o Have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or
o Are an outstanding professor or researcher, or
o Are a multinational manager or executive who meets certain criteria
· Are a second preference immigrant worker, meaning you:
o Are a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree, or
o Have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or
o Are seeking a national interest waiver
· Are a third preference immigrant worker, meaning you are:
o A skilled worker (meaning your job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience), or
o A professional (meaning your job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession), or
o An unskilled worker (meaning you will perform unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years training or experience)
Have invested or are actively in the process of investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. which will create full-time positions for at least 10 qualifying employee.
Step 1. Determine if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen
Review the naturalisation eligibility worksheet to help you decide if you are eligible to apply for naturalisation.
Step 2. Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalisation
Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalisation. This form is available to file online. Read the instructions to complete Form N-400. Collect the necessary documents to demonstrate your eligibility for naturalisation. If you reside outside the United States, get 2 passport-style photos taken.
Step 3. Submit your Form N-400 and pay your fees
Submit your Form N-400 and pay your fees. This form is available to file online. You may also pay your fees online. Once you submit Form N-400, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. You can check case processing times and your case status online.
Step 4. Go to your biometrics appointment, if applicable
Go to your biometrics appointment, if applicable. If you need to take biometrics, USCIS will send you an appointment notice that includes your biometrics appointment date, time, and location. Arrive at the designated location at the scheduled time. Have your biometrics taken.
Step 5. Complete the interview
Once all the preliminary processes on your case are complete, USCIS will schedule an interview with you to complete the naturalisation process. You must report to the USCIS office at the date and time on your appointment notice. Please bring the appointment notice with you.
Step 6. Receive a decision from USCIS on your Form N-400
USCIS will mail a notice of decision to you. If you filed your N-400 online, you can also access the electronic notice in your account.
· Granted – USCIS may approve your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes that you are eligible for naturalisation.
· Continued – USCIS may continue your application if you need to provide additional evidence/documentation, fail to provide USCIS the correct documents, or fail the English and/or civics test the first time.
· Denied – USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if the evidence in your record establishes you are not eligible for naturalisation
Step 7. Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance
If USCIS approved your Form N-400 in step 6, you may be able to participate in a naturalisation ceremony on the same day as your interview. If a same day naturalisation ceremony is unavailable, USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled ceremony. If you filed your N-400 online, you can also access the electronic notice in your application.
Step 8. Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalisation ceremony.
· Complete the questionnaire on Form N-445, Notice of Naturalisation Oath Ceremony.
· Report for your naturalisation ceremony and check in with USCIS. A USCIS officer will review your responses to Form N-445.
· Turn in your Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).
· Take the Oath of Allegiance to become a U.S. citizen.
· Receive your Certificate of Naturalisation, review it, and notify USCIS of any errors you see on your certificate before leaving the ceremony site.
Step 9. Understanding U.S. citizenship
Citizenship is the common thread that connects all Americans. Check out this list of some of the most important rights and responsibilities that all citizens—both Americans by birth and by choice—should exercise, honour, and respect.
During your naturalisation interview, a USCIS officer will ask you questions about your application and background. You will also take an English and civics test unless you qualify for an exemption.
· The English test has three components: reading, writing, and speaking.
· The civics test covers important U.S. history and government topics.
If USCIS approves your Form N-400, Application for Naturalisation, we will schedule you to take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalisation ceremony. Taking the oath will complete the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Types of Ceremonies:
· In a judicial ceremony, the court administers the Oath of Allegiance.
· In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the Oath of Allegiance.
As USCIS safely resumes in-person services, some naturalisation ceremonies may be conducted differently than in the past. You may receive supplemental information from USCIS that provides detailed instructions for your ceremony. Please pay close attention to this information to ensure a safe and enjoyable ceremony experience.
How many times can I apply for naturalisation?
There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for naturalisation.
Do I need a lawyer to apply for U.S. citizenship?
No. You can file USCIS forms yourself, including Form N-400, Application for Naturalisation, which can be submitted online. However, some people choose to seek assistance from a lawyer or Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)-accredited representative.
Does USCIS publish the naturalisation test questions?
Yes. USCIS publishes a complete list of the 100 civics questions and answers for the naturalisation test that USCIS may ask applicants during the naturalisation interview. These questions are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. During the naturalisation test, a USCIS officer will ask an applicant any 10 of these 100 civics test questions. The USCIS officer will ask the applicant only the civics questions on this list.
Does USCIS make frequent changes to the questions on the naturalisation test?
No. However, some answers may change because of elections or appointments. As you study for the test, make sure you know the most current answers to these questions.
Will USCIS approve my Form N-400 naturalisation application once I pass the reading, writing, and civics portions of the naturalisation test?
No. In addition to preparing for the reading, writing, and civics portion of the naturalisation test, you will need to prepare for the speaking portion of the naturalisation test and meet all other naturalisation requirements. The speaking test occurs during the eligibility review.
Can I legally change my name while my naturalisation application is pending?
Yes. You can legally change your name after filing your application for naturalisation with USCIS. If your name has changed after you filed a naturalisation application, you must promptly provide USCIS with the document(s) that legally changed your name(s), such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order, or other official record. Make sure to mention your name change and bring the documents related to your name change at the time of the interview.
Do I need to bring original documents such as birth and marriage certificates to the naturalisation interview?
Yes. You should bring certain original documents to your interview. In the instructions to Form N-400, Application for Naturalisation, USCIS provides an extensive list of examples of original documents that you should bring to the interview, depending on different case scenarios. Examples of these documents include: original birth, marriage, divorce, final adoption and naturalisation certificates; court orders/decrees; evidence of child support payments; court-certified arrest reports; and probation/parole records. Certain certified copies of documents can also be provided.
When should I submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions?
Applicants for naturalisation seeking an exception to the English and/or civics requirements for naturalisation because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment are encouraged to submit this form at the time they file Form N-400, Application for Naturalisation, with USCIS. However, USCIS recognises that certain circumstances may prevent concurrent filing of the naturalisation application and the disability exception form. Accordingly, an applicant may file the disability exception form during any part of the naturalisation process, including after the application is filed but before the first examination, during the first examination, during the re-examination if the applicant’s first examination was rescheduled, and during the rehearing on a denied naturalisation application.
How will I know what the decision is on the Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, I submitted?
The decision on your Form N-648 will be made at the time of your naturalisation interview. If your Form N-648 is found to be sufficient, and the licensed medical professional who completed your Form N-648 indicated on the form that you were unable to comply with all of the educational requirements, the officer will conduct the eligibility interview in your language of choice with the use of an interpreter and will not test you on any of the educational requirements.
What should I do if I have already applied for naturalisation and my Permanent Resident Card, also known as “Green Card,” is expiring?
A lawful permanent resident is required to have valid, unexpired proof of lawful permanent residence in his or her possession at all times. Applying for naturalisation does not change this requirement. For this reason, you must generally apply to renew your expiring Green Card even if you have applied for naturalisation.
If I fail a portion of the naturalisation test, when will I be retested?
Unless you are eligible for an exception to the English or civics requirements, you will be given two opportunities to meet the English and civics requirements. If you fail any portion of these requirements, you will be retested during a new interview on the portion of the test that you failed (English or civics) between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview.