Finding a Medical Doctor

Medical examinations in the United States are typically required for adjustment of status (such as green card) cases (Form I-485), and may also be required for requests for “V” nonimmigrant status (Form I-539). If you are required to undergo an immigration medical exam, see the following table to find an approved doctor near you:

If you are… then:
in the United States, The immigration medical exam must be conducted by a physician approved by USCIS (also known as a “civil surgeon”). To find an approved doctor near you, see the USCIS Civil Surgeons Locator or call our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
abroad, The immigration medical exam mnust be conducted by a physician designated by the U.S. Department of State (also known as a “panel physician”). See the Department of State website to find an approved doctor near you.
Medical Examination Fees
USCIS does not regulate the fees charged by civil surgeons for the completion of a medical examination. Rates vary by physician.

Completing Medical Forms
Print out and bring the most recent version of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to your medical exam appointment: Fill out Part 1 of Form I-693 but do not sign until the civil surgeon instructs you to do so. The civil surgeon will use Form I-693 to document the results of your medical exam.

The designated civil surgeon will complete and sign Form I-693,and seal the form and any supporting documents in an envelope. You must submit the sealed envelope to USCIS as directed in the Form I-693 instructions.

IMPORTANT: Do not break the seal or open this envelope. USCIS will not accept Form I-693 if it is not in a sealed envelope or if the envelope is altered in any way.

Civil Surgeons’ Responsibilities and Requirements
For more information on civil surgeons’ responsibilities, requirements and how civil surgeons can find instruction on how to best perform immigration exams, see our Currently Designated Civil Surgeons page.

Employment Authorization Document

U.S. employers must check to make sure all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, are allowed to work in the United States. If you are not a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, you may fall into one of three categories of persons who are eligible for employment authorization.

Category 1: You may have authorization to work in the United States as a result of your nonimmigrant status
Category 2: You may have authorization to work for a specific employer as a result of your nonimmigrant status
Category 3: You may be in a category which requires you to file for permission to work
Some of those that fall in the first and third categories (including those who have a pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) are required to apply for work authorization and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization prior to seeking work in the United States. The EAD is the proof that you will show to your employer that you are allowed to work in the United States. In most cases, EADs are granted for a 1 year period.

USCIS issues EADs for the following reasons:

As proof that you are allowed to work in the United States for a specific time period or while you have a specific immigration status
To renew an EAD that has expired
To replace an EAD
If Your EAD has Expired

If you are still eligible for work authorization but your EAD has expired, you should file for a renewal EAD by submitting a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You cannot file for a renewal EAD more than 120 days before your original EAD expires.

Replacing an EAD

A replacement EAD replaces a lost, stolen, or mutilated EAD. In addition, an EAD may be replaced without fee for USCIS error when it was issued with incorrect information, such as a misspelled name. You must file Form I-765 to replace an EAD.

Eligibility Categories for the Form I-765

Please see the Form I-765 instructions for a complete list of eligibility categories. You may also find eligibility categories in section 274a.12, title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations

Travel Documents

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, is used to apply for three different types of travel documents:

Advance Parole
Refugee Travel Document
Re-Entry Permit
Below you will find more information about these three types of travel documents. For more information on how to apply for these travel documents, see the “Form I-131” link to the right.

WARNING

If you have been in the United States illegally, then you may be subject to a bar to admission if you depart the United States, even if you have been issued a travel document. For more information please see Section 212(a)(9) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

If you are an asylee who applied for asylum on or after April 1, 1997, then your asylum status may be terminated if you return to the country from which you were seeking protection See the “Fact Sheet: Traveling Outside the United States as an Asylum Applicant, an Asylee, or Lawful Permanent Resident Who Obtained Such Status Based on Asylum Status” to the right for more information.

Advance Parole

Advance parole is issued solely to authorize the temporary parole of a person into the United States. The document may be accepted by a transportation company (airlines) instead of a visa as an authorization to travel to the United States.

An advance parole document does not replace your passport.

Advance parole is most commonly used when someone has Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, pending. If you depart the U.S. while your I-485 application is pending without first obtaining advance parole, your case will be denied unless you fit into a narrow exception for those maintaining certain nonimmigrant statuses.

Advance Parole for Asylees

An asylum applicant who has a pending Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, and has not received a final decision may be allowed to travel outside the United States.

If you are an asylum applicant and you intend to travel outside the United States and return you must apply for and receive advance parole. If you leave the United States without first obtaining advance parole, we will presume you abandoned your asylum application.

Advance parole does not guarantee that you will be allowed to reenter the United States, rather, an immigration inspector from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must inspect you and determine whether you will be allowed to reenter the United States.

Refugee Travel Document

A refugee travel document is issued to a person who has been granted refugee or asylum status, or to a permanent resident who obtained a green card because they were a refugee or asylee.

If you hold refugee or asylee status and are not a permanent resident, you must have a refugee travel document to return to the United States.

Derivative asylees and refugees must also obtain a refugee travel document before leaving the United States.

If you do not obtain a refugee travel document in advance of departure, you may be unable to re-enter the United States, or you may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

For more information, see the “Fact Sheet: Traveling Outside the United States as an Asylum Applicant, an Asylee, or Lawful Permanent Resident Who Obtained Such Status Based on Asylum Status” link to the right

Re-entry Permit

A re-entry permit allows a permanent resident or conditional resident to apply for admission to the U.S. upon returning from abroad during the permit’s validity, without having to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or consulate. Permanent or conditional residents should apply for a re-entry permit if they will be outside the United States for one year or more.

Visa Availability & Priority Dates

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets the number of immigrant visas that may be issued to individuals seeking permanent resident status (a green card) each year.

Immigrant visas available to “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens are unlimited, so are always available. . Immediate relatives include, parents of a U.S. citizen, spouses of a U.S. citizen and, unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen.

Immigrant visa numbers for individuals in a “preference category” are limited, so are not always available. For more information on both family-based and employment-based preference categories, please see the “Green Card Eligibility” link to the left.

The U.S. Department of State is the agency that distributes visa numbers. Family sponsored preference categories are limited to 226,000 per year and employment based preference visa are limited to 140,000 per year. In addition, there are limits to the percentage of visas that can be allotted to each country.

Because the demand is higher than the supply of visas for a given year for some categories, a visa queue (waiting list) forms. To distribute the visas among all preference categories, the Department of State gives out the visas by providing visa numbers according to the preference category and one’s priority date. The priority date (explained below) is used to determine an individual’s place in line in the visa queue. When the priority date becomes current, the individual will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa.

Your priority date can be found on Form I-797, Notice of Action, for the petition filed for you. The length of time you must wait in line before receiving an immigrant visa or adjusting status depends on:

The demand for and supply of immigrant visa numbers
The per country visa limitations
The number of visas allocated for your particular preference category
Priority Dates for Family Sponsored Preference Cases

For family sponsored immigration, the priority date is the date that the petition is properly filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A properly filed petition contains the required signature(s), filing fee, and any supporting documentation required at the time of filing.

Priority Dates for Employment Based Preference Cases

The priority date for an immigrant petition that is based on employment is either:

The date the petition was properly filed with USCIS, or
The date the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor (when a labor certification is required)
Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Inventory

A visa must be available before a person can obtain an employment-based green card. Currently, about 234,000 people have applied for employment-based adjustment of status (green card) in the United States and are waiting for a visa. Because more people want a green card than there are visas available, not everyone who wants a green card can get one immediately. How long you wait for a visa depends on your priority date, preference category, and the country your visa will be charged to (usually your country of birth). For more information on how many people filed for an employment based green card ahead of you, see the “Questions & Answers: Pending Employment-Based Form I-485 Inventory” link to the right.

U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin

The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly report of visa availability referred to as the “Visa Bulletin.” The monthly Visa Bulletin serves as a guide for issuing visas at U.S. consulates and embassies. USCIS also uses this guide to determine whether a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, may be accepted or adjudicated, because a visa must be available both at the time a person files Form I-485 and at the time of the final decision on the application.

Check Your Place in the Visa Queue

The Visa Bulletin allows individuals to check their place in the immigrant visa queue. The Visa Bulletin provides the cut-off dates for the different categories and countries for family, employment and diversity visas.

When Visa Numbers Are Available

If demand is less than supply in a given preference visa category and country of birth (“or country of visa chargeability”), then immigrant visas are current. Visas are available when the chart designation is “C” for current.

This means that immigrant visa numbers are available for all qualified overseas applicants and adjustment applicants in that particular visa preference category and country of birth.

When Visa Numbers Are Not Available

If the demand is more than supply for a particular visa category or foreign state, and cannot be satisfied within the allowable limits, the Visa Office considers the preference visa category or foreign state “oversubscribed” and must impose a cut-off date.

In this instance, only overseas and adjustment applicants who have a priority date earlier than the date listed in the Visa Bulletin may be given an immigrant visa number. A visa is available to an individual, therefore, if his/her priority date is earlier than the date listed for that visa category and country. Visas are unavailable when the chart designation is “U” for unavailable.

For example, if a date of 15Sept02 is shown for individuals from China in the Family 1st preference category in the Visa Bulletin, visas are currently available for individuals with a priority date earlier than September 15, 2002.

Visa Retrogression

Sometimes, a priority date that is current one month will not be current the next month. This is called visa retrogression, which occurs when more people apply for a visa in a particular category than there are visas available for that month. Visa retrogression most often occurs when the annual limit has been reached. When the new fiscal year begins on October 1, a new supply of visa numbers is available and usually, but not always, brings back the dates to where they were before retrogression.

Cross-Chargeability

Employment based cases are amenable to visa cross-chargeability provisions for principal applicants (that may have a visa retrogressed priority date), who have spouses from a country for which a visa cut-off date may provide a visa allocation. For more information on cross-chargeability, see the “Department of State: Visa Homepage” link to the right

Concurrent Filing

Concurrent filing is when an immigrant petition and the adjustment application (application for a green card, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) are filed at the same time and mailed together with all the required filing fees and supporting documentation to the same filing location.

Who can file concurrently?
Concurrent filing is allowed in the following instances:

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens living in the United States
Most employment based applicants and their eligible family members when a visa number is immediately available
Special Immigrant Juveniles
Self petitioning battered spouse or child if
The abusive spouse or parent is a U.S. citizen, or
If an immigrant visa number is immediately available
Certain Armed Forces Members applying for a special immigrant visa under Section101(a)(27)(K) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)Special Immigrant International Organization Employee or family member
Consular Processing and Concurrent Filing
Concurrent filing cannot occur in consular processed cases, as the immigrant petition is filed with USCIS and the application for an immigrant visa is filed with the Department of State. Therefore concurrent filing is only seen in the context of an immigrant who is adjusting to permanent resident status (a green card) while in the United States.

Visa Availability and Concurrent Filing
A petition and application may be filed concurrently when there is a visa number immediately available at the time of filing. Concurrent filing is always allowed for all immediate relatives of a United States citizen, since there are no numeric limitations in this category. However, in some categories, even if there is a visa number available at the time of filing, concurrent filing is not allowed as the intending immigrant must have an approved basis of eligibility (i.e. an approved petition) before being allowed to file for adjustment of status. For more information on if you can file concurrently, refer to the instructions on your immigrant petition:

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
When adjudicating concurrent filings, the determination of eligibility for the immigrant visa petition is made first. If a visa number remains available for the immigrant classification and the Form I-485 is approvable (which in certain cases requires an interview) USCIS will generally consider the adjustment application at the same time. Separate decision notices will be sent for both forms.

For more information, see our Visa Availability & Priority Dates page.

Consular Processing

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status (a green card). An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as “consular processing.”

Adjustment of status is an alternate process by which an eligible person, who is already in the United States, can apply for permanent resident status without having to return to his/her home country to complete processing. For more information, see our Adjustment of Status page under Green Card Processes & Procedures.

Steps for Consular Processing
1. Determine Your Basis to Immigrate

The first step in consular processing is to determine if you fit into a specific immigrant category. Most immigrants become eligible for a green card (permanent residence) through a petition filed on your behalf by a family member or employer. Others become permanent residents through first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions. To see the many different ways to get a green card, see the links to the left.

2. File the Immigrant Petition

When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, in most cases, you will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf.

Family Based
Family based categories require that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you. For more information, see our Family page.

Employment Based
Employment based categories most often require the intending U.S. employer to file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for you. Entrepreneurs who intend to invest significant amounts of capital into a business venture in the United States may file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” on their own behalf. For more information, see our Working in the U.S. page.

Special Classes of Immigrants
In some cases, certain immigrants may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, or have one filed on their behalf.

Humanitarian Programs
Most humanitarian programs do not require an underlying petition, although individuals may need to meet additional requirements before they can adjust status. For more information, see our Humanitarian page.

Although immigrant petitions are filed with USCIS, In some cases, an I-130 petition may be filed for an immediate relative (spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen) with a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Situations where this may be applicable include:

If the U.S. citizen has been authorized to be continuously residing within the jurisdiction of the consular office for at least the previous 6 months
Members of the military
Emergency situations
Situations involving the health or safety of the petitioner
When in the national interests of the United States
Please check with the consulate before submitting a petition. For more information, see the U.S. Department of State website.

3. Wait for a Decision on Your Petition

USCIS notifies the petitioner of a decision. If the petition is denied, the notice will include the reasons for denying the petition and any rights to appeal the decision. If the petition is approved and if you are the beneficiary of the petition and living outside the United States or living in the United States, but choose to apply for your immigrant visa abroad, USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. See our Visa Availability & Priority Dates pages for more information.

4. Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center

The National Visa Center, which is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation, will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”) and when supporting documentation must be submitted.

5. Go to Your Appointment

Once a visa is available or a beneficiary’s priority date is current (earlier than the cut-off date listed in the monthly Visa Bulletin),the consular office will schedule the applicant for an interview. The consular office will complete processing of the applicant’s case and decide if the beneficiary is eligible for an immigrant visa.

6. Notify the National Visa Center of Any Changes

You do not need to contact the National Visa Center about your petition, they will contact you for the information they need. You should, however, contact the NVC if there is a change in your personal situation or if you change your address. For NVC contact information, see the “NVC Contact Information” link to the right. It is important to notify the NVC if you reach the age of 21 for a child or have a change in your marital status, as this may affect your eligibility or visa availability.

7. After Your Visa is Granted

If you are granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information. This packet is known as a “Visa Packet.” You should not open this packet.

Upon your arrival to the United States, you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. You will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, which gives you the authority to live and work in the United States permanently.

8. Receive Your Green Card

You will be mailed your green card. If you do not receive your green card within 30 days of your arrival, please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit your local office by making an InfoPass appointment. Make an appointment by visiting our Infopass page

Adjustment of Status

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the change of an individual’s immigration status while in the United States from nonimmigrant or parolee (temporary) to immigrant (permanent) if the individual was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States and is able to meet all required qualifications for a green card (permanent residence) in a particular category. The common term for a change to permanent status is “adjustment of status.”

The INA provides an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status. Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible individual already in the United States can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.

Consular processing is an alternate process for an individual outside the United States (or who is in the United States but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the United States as a permanent resident) This pathway is referred to as “consular processing” (see the link to the left).

Steps for Adjustment of Status
1. Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
The first step in the adjustment of status process is to determine if you fit into a specific immigrant category . Most immigrants become eligible for a green card (permanent residence) through a petition filed on your behalf by a family member or employer. Others become permanent residents through first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions. To see the many different ways to get a green card, see the links to the left.

2. File the Immigrant Petition
When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, in most cases, you will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf.

Family Based
Family based categories require that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you. For more information, see our Family page
Employment Based
Employment based categories most often require the intending U.S. employer to file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for you. Entrepreneurs who intend to invest significant amounts of capital into a business venture in the United States may file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” on their own behalf. For more information, see our Working in the U.S page
Special Classes of Immigrants
In some cases, certain immigrants may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, or have one filed on their behalf. To learn more about who may file a special immigrant petition, see the “Form I-360” link to the right.
Humanitarian Programs
Most humanitarian programs do not require an underlying petition, although individuals may need to meet additional requirements before they can adjust status. For more information, see the “Humanitarian” link to the right.
Depending on the category you wish to adjust under, you may be eligible to have the petition filed at the same time that you file your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This is called “concurrent filing.” Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen may be able to file concurrently. Also, other certain classes of individuals who have a visa immediately available may be able to file concurrently. Most categories, however, require that you first establish your eligibility for the immigrant category by having an approved petition before you are allowed to file Form I-485, for these categories you will not be able to file concurrently.

For more information on concurrent filing, see our Concurrent Filing page.

3. Check Visa Availability
You may not file your Form I-485 until a visa is available in your category. If an immigrant visa is currently available to you, you may be able to apply for permanent residence status on Form I-485. See our Visa Availability & Priority Dates page for more information on if you have a visa immediately available to you.

4. File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residency or Adjust Status
Regardless of whether a petition must be filed and approved prior to your filing Form I-485 or whether it may be filed concurrently, you will need to apply for permanent residence on Form I-485 at the appropriate time.

Note: There are a few categories which may require a different form than Form I-485.

When filing Form I-485, you must read the form instructions carefully and submit all required documentation and evidence required for your particular category. Failure to do so may result in your application being delayed or possibly denied for failure to establish that you are eligible to adjust status.

To learn more about filing your Form I-485, see the “Form I-485” link to the right.

5. Go to your Application Support Center appointment (fingerprints)
After you file your application, you will be notified to appear at an Application Support Center for biometrics collection, which usually involves having your picture and signature taken and being fingerprinted. This information will be used to conduct your required security checks and for eventual creation of a green card, employment authorization (work permit) or advance parole document.

6. Go to your interview (if applicable)
You may be notified of the date, time, and location for an interview at a USCIS office to answer questions under oath or affirmation regarding your application. You must attend all interviews when you receive a notice.

When you come to your interview, you (and the family member that filed the Form I-130 petition on your behalf, if applicable) must bring originals of all documentation submitted with this application including passports, official travel documents, and Form I-94 regardless if they are expired.

Not all applications require an interview. USCIS officials will review your case to determine if it meets one of the exceptions.

7. Get you final decision in the mail
After all paperwork has been received, interviews conducted (if necessary), security checks completed, and other eligibility requirements reviewed, your case will be ready for a decision by USCIS. In all cases, you will be notified of the decision in writing.

The granting of permanent residency is generally recorded as the date that you became a permanent resident. Refugees and certain humanitarian parolees (e.g. Cuban, Lautenberg) will have their date of adjustment of status recorded as that of their entry into the United States as a refugee. Asylees, whether the principal filer or his/her derivatives, will have their date of adjustment recorded as 1 year prior to the date of being granted permanent residence.

Change of Address

You must advise USCIS of a change of address. To update your address, see the “Change of Address” link to the right.

Check My Status

If you have immigration-related questions, you may call the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283. You should be prepared to provide the USCIS representative with specific information about your application, such as your receipt number, Alien Registration Number, name and date of birth. Or, you may check the status of your application online at “My Case Status” (see the link to the right).

Please remember that an application receipt number may not be available through “My Case Status” for 72 hours.

Appeal a Denial

If your application for adjustment of status is denied, your decision notice will let you know your appeal rights. Not every decision can be appealed. Generally, if your decision can be appealed, you must file the appeal within 30 days of the service of the decision. You may also be able to file a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider. Both appeals and motions are filed on Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

Green Card Eligibility

You may be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) through your family, a job offer or employment, refugee or asylum status, or a number of other special provisions. In some cases, you may even be able to self petition or have a record created for permanent residence on your behalf. In general, to meet the requirements for permanent residence in the United States, you must:

Be eligible for one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
Have a qualifying immigrant petition filed and approved for you (with a few exceptions)
Have an immigrant visa immediately available
Be admissible to the United States
Each requirement is detailed below.

Eligibility for an Immigrant Category

Individuals who want to become immigrants (permanent residents) through their qualified family member, a job offer or employment, or a special category will generally be classified in categories based on a preference system. Except for immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen who are given the highest immigration priority and a few other exceptions, Congress has set a finite number of visas that can be used each year for each category of immigrants. The general categories are listed below. For more specific information under each general category, see the links to the left.

Family Based

Some relatives of U.S. citizens, known as immediate relatives, do not have to wait for a visa to become available. There is no limit to the number of visas that can be utilized in this category in a particular year. Immediate relatives include:

Parents of a U.S. citizen
Spouses of a U.S. citizen
Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
Note: U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years old to apply for their parents.

The qualified relatives of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in the remaining family-based categories may have to wait for a visa to become available before they can apply for permanent residency. These categories include:

First Preference: Unmarried, adult (21 years of age or older) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
Second Preference A: Spouses of permanent residents and the unmarried children (under the age of 21)) of permanent residents
Second Preference B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years or age or older) of permanent residents
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children
For more information on green card eligibility through a family member, see the “Green Card Through Family” link to the left.

Job or Employment Based

People who want to become immigrants based on employment or a job offer may apply for permanent residence or an immigrant visa abroad, when an immigrant visa number becomes available according to the following employment based preferences:

First Preference: Priority Workers, including aliens with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers
Second Preference: Members of professions holding an advanced degree or persons of exceptional ability (including individuals seeking a National Interest Waiver)
Third Preference: Skilled Workers, professionals and other qualified workers
Fourth Preference: Certain special immigrants including those in religious vocations
Fifth Preference: Employment creation immigrants (investors or entrepreneurs)
For more information on green card eligibility through employment or a job offer, see our Green Card Through a Job page.

Based on Refugee or Asylum Status

If you were admitted to the United States as a refugee or the qualifying spouse or child of a refugee, you are required to apply for permanent residence (a green card) 1 year after your entry into the United States in this status. If you were granted asylum in the United States or are a qualifying spouse or child of an asylee, you may apply for permanent residence 1 year after the grant of your asylum status.

If you are a refugee, you are required by law to apply for a green card 1 year after being admitted to the United States in refugee status.

If you are an asylee or asylee derivative spouse or child, you are not required to apply for a green card 1 year after being granted asylum or 1 year after being admitted to the United States in asylum status, although it may be in your best interest to do so.

For more information on green card eligibility for refugees and asylees, see our Green Card Through Refugee or Asylum Status page

Other Ways

Although most immigrants come to live permanently in the United States through a family member’s sponsorship, employment, or a job offer, there are many other ways to get a green card.

A number of special immigrant programs are limited to individuals meeting particular qualifications and/or applying during certain time frames. To learn if you may be eligible for one of these special categories, see our Other Ways to Get a Green Card page.

Immigrant Petition

Immigrants in most categories will need an immigrant petition (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, or another petition) filed on their behalf.

A petition establishes the underlying basis for your ability to immigrate and determines your immigrant classification or category. Some categories of immigrants may be able to self-petition. Most people immigrating based on humanitarian programs are exempt from the petition requirement.

Some immigrant petitions can be filed at the same time as the adjustment application (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), known as “concurrent filing” while other categories of immigrants will be required to wait until they have an approved petition before being allowed to apply for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. For more information about concurrent filing, see our Concurrent Filing page

Visa Availability

A visa is always available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. If you are in a family or employment based preference category, visa availability is determined by:

Your priority date
The preference category you are immigrating under
The country the visa will be charged to (usually your country of citizenship)
The Department of State is the government agency that controls visa numbers. The annual limits for visa numbers are established by Congress and can be referenced in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

First, a priority date will be assigned to you based on your immigrant petition filing date (the date that the petition is properly filed with USCIS) or, in certain employment-based cases, the date the application for a labor certification was accepted by the Department of Labor. Your priority date holds your place in line for an immigrant visa.

This date, along with your country of nationality and preference category, determines if or how long a person will have to wait for a visa to be immediately available. When USCIS officials are ready to approve an applicant for permanent residency in a visa category that has limited numbers, we must first request a visa number from the Department of State.

When a visa is available, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (if you are in the United States) or apply for an immigrant visa abroad (consular processing). If you are consular processing, USCIS will forward your approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center who will contact you when your priority date is about to become current as to what your next steps are and when you may apply for an immigrant visa abroad.

For more information on determining visa availability or filing abroad, see our Visa Availability & Priority Dates and Consular Processing pages.

Admissibility to the United States

All persons applying for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status must prove to the satisfaction of immigration or consular officials that they are admissible (eligible for admission) to the United States.

There are many grounds of inadmissibility that could potentially cause someone to be ineligible to become a permanent resident. For instance, there are health-related, criminal, security-related, and other grounds USCIS must consider.

In some cases and in certain situations, if you are found inadmissible to the United States you may be eligible to file a waiver on Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility, (the form required for most immigrants) or I-602, Application By Refugee For Waiver of Grounds of Excludability (the form required for refugees and asylees) to excuse your inadmissibility.

The grounds of inadmissibility are determined by the particular category under which you are immigrating. If you are ultimately found inadmissible to the United States, your adjustment of status application (Form I-485) or immigrant visa application will be denied. Congress has set the grounds of inadmissibility and they may be referenced in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

After all paperwork has been received, interviews conducted (if necessary), security checks completed, and other eligibility requirements reviewed, your case will be ready for a decision by USCIS.

Granted a Green Card by an Immigration Judge

Granted a Green Card by an Immigration Judge or Board of Immigration Appeals

What do I do if I haven’t received my green card?

If an immigration judge (IJ) granted you permanent residence during immigration court proceedings or you were granted permanent residence by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and you have not yet received your green card, please schedule an appointment with your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. See the “Make an Appointment” link to the right.

Wait at least 3 days after the judge or BIA decision before you schedule the appointment with the local office. This will allow time for USCIS to receive the decision and update our computer information.

What should I bring to the appointment?

You should bring:

A copy of the final order you received from the IJ or the BIA
Identity documents (passport, driver’s license, USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document, etc)
What if I still don’t receive my green card after my appointment?

After your appointment at the local office, if you have complied with all the instructions, including biometrics, and you still do not receive your green card after 30 days:

Call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283
You must provide the following when you call or email the NCSC:

Name
Alien number
Date of birth
Address
Date of your order from the IJ or the BIA
Specific type of relief granted (e.g., adjustment of status, cancellation of removal)
Whether your order is final (if you or your representative know)
The USCIS local or district office where you attended your appointment
Dates of your local office and Application Support Center appointments
Any other relevant information about your request for documentation
This information is required so that USCIS may better respond to your request.

One of the most important privileges of democracy in the United States of America is the right to participate in choosing elected officials through voting in elections. There are many different types of elections in the United States, such as federal elections, state elections or local elections. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections. Registering to vote or voting in a federal election is a crime if you are not a U.S. citizen. Non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents (green card holders), who vote, or register to vote, in a federal election also can be denied naturalization and/or removed (deported) from the United States. There are very few jurisdictions where a non-U.S. citizen may vote in a local election. However, this web site does not provide information regarding voting qualifications for state and local elections. You can obtain information regarding voting qualifications in local elections from your local voting authority. It is important to remember that even if you are allowed to vote in a local election, you are not eligible to vote in a federal election if you are not a U.S. citizen, nor in any other election that requires you to be a U.S. citizen.

One of the most important privileges of democracy in the United States of America is the right to participate in choosing elected officials through voting in elections. There are many different types of elections in the United States, such as federal elections, state elections or local elections. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections. Registering to vote or voting in a federal election is a crime if you are not a U.S. citizen. Non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents (green card holders), who vote, or register to vote, in a federal election also can be denied naturalization and/or removed (deported) from the United States.

There are very few jurisdictions where a non-U.S. citizen may vote in a local election. However, this web site does not provide information regarding voting qualifications for state and local elections. You can obtain information regarding voting qualifications in local elections from your local voting authority. It is important to remember that even if you are allowed to vote in a local election, you are not eligible to vote in a federal election if you are not a U.S. citizen, nor in any other election that requires you to be a U.S. citizen.