A green card is an identification card that shows that the cardholder is a permanent resident of the United States. Unlike a nonimmigrant visa, a green card signifies that the cardholder can remain in the United States permanently. Because of the significance of a green card, those seeking a green card should know how to obtain one and when they may be able to do so.

Immediate relatives

Several categories of individuals may qualify for a green card. Those who may be eligible for a green card include relatives in the immediate family of United States citizens.

Spouses of U.S. citizens; unmarried children under the age of 21 with at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen; parents of U.S. citizens if the citizen child is older than the age of 21; stepchildren and stepparents (provided the marriage that created the step relationship occurred before the child was 18 years old); and adopted children of U.S. citizens (if the adoption occurred prior to the child reaching 16 years of age) may all qualify for green cards. If the relative qualifies, they can typically obtain a green card once they file all the necessary paperwork.

Extended relatives

The second category of those who may be able to obtain a green card is extended relatives who may be given preference for a green card if they apply.

In order of preference, unmarried adult sons and daughters ,21 years or older, of a U.S. citizen parent; spouses, unmarried adult sons and daughters, and children of Permanent Residents; ; married individuals who have at least one parent who has a U.S. citizen; and sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens (provided the citizen is 21 years of age or older) may all qualify for a green card. In addition, there are a variety of other categories of individuals that may be eligible for a green card.

Know what to expect

The green card process can be essential but complex, which is why those seeking a green card should understand the process. Familiarity with immigration laws can help those seeking permanent resident status in the United States, so they know what to expect and how to apply for a green card.