Individuals who want to live in the United States permanently must apply for a green card through the U.S. Department of State. Applicants must follow the complex instructions exactly to avoid having their request rejected or delayed.

If you are already living and/or working in the U.S., read on to learn more about the green card application process to seek permanent residency.

Determine eligibility

The required forms vary based on whether you are applying for residency as a crime victim, refugee, employee or family member. Explore eligibility categories to determine the appropriate paperwork for your application.

Complete your petition

If you are applying as a worker, your employer must complete a petition on your behalf. If you are applying as a family member of a permanent resident, he or she must apply on your behalf. For other categories, you can complete your petition independently.

Confirm availability of a visa

You cannot continue the process until a visa becomes available in your category. Only a limited number of permanent residency applications receive state department approval within each category in a given time frame.

Submit your application

Upon notification that a visa is available, complete and submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status along with a filing fee if you are between ages 14 to 78. Depending on your eligibility category, you must also submit specific supporting documentation.

Attend your appointment

You will receive notice about your scheduled appointment for security and background checks as well as fingerprinting. This appointment takes place at an application support center near your current U.S. residency.

Await approval

After your appointment, the state department may request additional evidence, documentation or an in-person interview. The agency will not process your application further until you complete these requests. Most applicants receive a written green card decision within seven to 38 months of their initial petition.

If you receive a green card, you must renew residency every 10 years. Applicants who receive denial can appeal this decision.