If you have moved to the United States from another country, you can apply for a green card to stay in the U.S. permanently. Careful completion of the application will help increase your chances of approval. 

When you are in the U.S. already, these steps will guide you through the green card application process. 

Choose an eligibility category 

Your application forms will vary depending on the category in which you plan to apply for a green card. For example, you can apply as an employee with a job in the U.S., a family member of a U.S. citizen, a refugee from your home nation or in various other categories. 

Once you know your category, you can check visa availability. The Department of State designates a certain number of annual visas for each category. You cannot apply for a green card until visas become available for your category. 

File your petition and application 

If you are applying as an employer or family member, your loved one or the company you work for must submit the immigration petition on your behalf. In most other categories, you can submit the petition independently. 

After submitting the petition, complete and submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The documentation this form requires varies based on your category of eligibility. You must also submit a $1,225 filing fee if you are between ages 14 and 78. 

Complete security checks and interviews 

When the Department of State receives your full application, the agency will notify you of an appointment at an Application Support Center near your home. At this session, you will submit to a background check, security clearances and fingerprinting. 

You may also receive notice of a scheduled interview or of the need for additional documentation. You must respond to any further requests before the agency will approve or deny your green card application. 

The complete process to receive a green card can take from seven to 38 months. At that time, you will receive a written decision notice.