What is a green card?

green card

With a green card, it is possible for a non-U.S. national to gain permanent residency in the country. The green card allows people to live and work (lawfully) anywhere in the United States and qualify for citizenship after three or five years. Boundless offers green card assistance without a high price tag.

The U.S. government issues more than a million green cards each year. Families of U.S. citizens and green card holders receive the greatest number of green cards, followed by foreign workers seeking employment in the United States.

Timeline for Green Cards

Depending on the type of green card you are applying for and where you are applying from, the processing time can range from months to years.


The wait time for spouses and immediate relatives (parents and minor children) of U.S. citizens applying from within the country through adjustment of status is currently 35-52 months. There can be a much longer wait for spouses of green card holders, relatives of U.S. citizens, and employment-based green cards.

You can get started on your application for adjustment of status today with Boundless!


When spouses and immediate relatives (parents and minor children) of usgreencardoffice.com apply via consular processing from outside the country, for the following requirements to be met: The wait time is currently 11-17 months.  wait is en card categories are subject to country caps, and wait times vary dramatically.

Currently, it takes 27-46 months for spouses of U.S. green card holders to apply from outside the United States.

The cost of a green card

In order to apply for a family-based green card, applicants must pay a fee of $1,760 if they live within the United States, and $1,200 if they live outside. Medical exams vary in cost by provider, so this does not include them. Learn more about the costs of a family-based green card.

The cost of your particular form is available on the USCIS website for other green card categories.

Don’t know what to expect in terms of costs? You can determine the exact government fees for your green card application using Boundless’ USCIS fee calculator. Additionally, we help you finance your costs, so you can get started now and pay later. To see what your options are for payment, you’ll need to create a free account.

Are you in need of more assistance? Our experienced immigration attorneys will review your green card application and answer all your questions – for free. Now is the time to get started on your application!

Green Cards: Different Types

There are many categories of green cards. The most common types are:

The Green Card for Families

It is possible for close relatives of U.S. citizens and current green card holders to apply for their own family-based green cards. Families with spouses, children, parents, or siblings are eligible (including the spouses and children of those spouses, children, and siblings).

Also included in this category are widows and widowers who were married to U.S. citizens when they died. Widows and widowers who apply for a marriage-based green card must prove that their marriage was authentic, just like their spouses and current green card holders.

Extended family members such as cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents do not qualify. The applicants will be able to apply for a green card only if they have a closer relative who is a U.S. citizen or currently holds a green card (or if they qualify for one of the other types of green cards below).

You can obtain a green card with the help of Boundless. The process of applying for a green card with us is easy, and common problems are avoided. Boundless offers a variety of services, or you can apply now.

An employment-based green card

Multiple subcategories of workers may apply for permanent residence under the employment-based green card category. It is possible for their spouses and children to qualify for a green card as well.

An extraordinary ability can be demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. In order to be recognized in your field, you must provide extensive documentation, explains the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

In your field, exceptional ability refers to “expertise significantly above that normally encountered”.

Visas for humanitarians

Refugees and asylees

People who fear, or have experienced, persecution in their home country — because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group — can seek protection in the United States by applying for a visa from abroad (to come as refugees) or from within the United States (to remain as asylumes).

They may apply for a green card once they have lived in the United States physically for at least one year after receiving refugee status or asylum. Refugees and asylees may also apply for green cards under these programs, as well as their spouses and children (in some cases).

Victims of human trafficking

In the U.S., victims of human trafficking – whether they are lawfully or unlawfully present (also known as “undocumented” immigrants) – can apply for a T visa to stay for up to four years. However, they must assist in investigating and prosecuting traffickers as a condition of the T visa (unless the victim is under 18).

In order to qualify for a green card, the applicant must have lived in the United States for one of the following periods, whichever is shorter:

  • T visa received three years ago
  • Human trafficking investigations and prosecutions last for a period of time

Additionally, they must meet other eligibility requirements. Among them are, for example, instance, demonstrating “good moral character” (meaning they have not committed certain crimes, such as fraud, prostitution, or murder) from the time they received a T visa until they’re approved for a green card. In addition, they must demonstrate to the U.S. government that leaving the country would cause them extreme hardships and severe harm. There is a complete list of eligibility criteria provided by USCIS.

It is possible for certain family members of the victim to apply for their own green cards as long as they and the victim meet all requirements.

It is for victims of crime

An application for a U visa can be made by anyone who has suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” while living in the United States – lawfully or illegally (in other words, “undocumented”). In order to obtain a U visa, the victim’s application must be certified by a law enforcement agency. An applicant for a U visa must also agree to assist in investigating and prosecuting crimes, such as kidnapping, sexual assault, and torture, similar to those for T visas.

The applicant must also satisfy other eligibility requirements in order to qualify for a green card, including:

  • The applicant must have lived physically in the United States for at least three years since receiving a U visa.
  • A green card applicant cannot leave the United States until USCIS approves (or denies) their application.

Applicants will also be accepted from the victim’s children, parents, and siblings as long as they meet all requirements to get their own green cards.

It is for victims of abuse

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows victims of domestic violence (battery or extreme cruelty) to apply for a green card that will allow them to seek relief. In spite of the fact that this law was designed to benefit women, it applies to both women and men, as well as to both parents and children.

Those who have been abused may apply for a green card without their abusive relatives’ knowledge or permission. These relatives may include:

  • Former or current spouse who holds a green card or is a citizen of the United States
  • A parent who is a U.S. citizen or has a green card
  • A child who is a citizen of the United States

In order to protect the victim, USCIS will not notify the abusive relative of the application. A full list of eligibility requirements can be found on the USCIS website.

Green Card through the Diversity Lottery

Under the U.S. “green card lottery” (officially known as the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program”), the government selects 50,000 applicants every year from six geographic regions, such as Africa, Asia, and Oceania. In order to enter the lottery, you must be from a country that has had little immigration to the United States in the past. For example, Algeria, Lebanon, and Slovakia have had little immigration to the United States in the past. Only 7% of green cards can be distributed to one country at a time.

Lottery applicants are most likely to live in their home countries at the time of application enter the lottery entries, but some already live in the United States under a different type of immigration status.