Is Getting a Green Card Difficult?

Every year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues approximately one million green cards to eligible applicants. This number might seem high, but it’s not. To put things into perspective, the USCIS receives over 6 million applications for green cards each year. So, technically, based on these statistics, one out of every six applicants gets a green card, making it about 16% of the total green card applications.

But do not be discouraged by the 16% chance; the USCIS will only deny your application for a green card for a valid reason. In other words, you do not have to worry about being denied a green card if you are eligible.

The only issue you may face is the long waiting times due to the high volume of applications. That said, some green card categories have faster processing times, as you will find out later in this article. 

Common Reasons for Green Card Denial

Some common reasons for green card denial include ineligibility due to factors such as a criminal record, certain medical conditions, or prior immigration violations. The USCIS will also deny your application if it is incomplete, lacks essential supporting documents, or if you have failed to pay the required fees. 

Additionally, if you are likely to become a public charge, meaning that you may rely on government assistance in the future, the USCIS may deny your application. 

For employment-based green card applications, your employer may have failed to follow the proper procedures when petitioning the USCIS to grant you an employment green card. Similarly, suppose you are applying for a family-based green card. In that case, the USCIS will deny your application if you cannot prove the required family relationship or meet other eligibility requirements for your specific category. 

The USCIS will also deny your application if you are a national security risk due to your background or activities. Note that each case is unique. Also, the reasons for a green card denial vary.

Therefore, ensure you read and understand the requirements for applying for a green card under your specific category. Or, better still, consult an experienced immigration attorney or expert familiar with U.S. immigration law to help you navigate the green card process. 

Ways To Apply for Permanent Residence (Green Card)

The USCIS has different eligibility categories for green card applicants. The right category for you will depend on the specific circumstance of your immigrant matter. Also, each of these options has its own set of eligibility requirements and application procedures.

Here are some common ways to get a permanent resident card in the U.S. 

1) Family-Sponsored Green Cards

You may obtain a green card through this process if you have a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident willing to sponsor you. This can include spouses, parents, siblings, and adult (unmarried) children of U.S. citizens or children of green card holders. A marriage green card is a good example of a family-based pathway to permanent residency.

2) Employment-Based Green Cards

You may be eligible for a green card through employment if you have a job offer from a U.S. employer. To petition for a green card under this category, your employer must get a labor certification from the U.S Department of Labor (DOL), prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position, and then fill out the appropriate forms, such as Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status or Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.

3) Investment Green Card

If you have a significant amount of money to invest in a U.S. business, you may be able to get a U.S. green card through the EB-5 program. To qualify, you must invest a minimum capital into a new business that guarantees permanent full-time employment for at least 10 qualified workers in the United States.

In this context, a new commercial enterprise is any for-profit activity created after November 29, 1990, or before November 29, 1990, to conduct lawful business and meets other criteria

4) Diversity Lottery Program 

Every year, the U.S. government holds a diversity lottery that allows over 55,000 individuals from certain countries to apply for a green card. The program is designed to promote diversity in the U.S. immigrant population.

However, it is worth noting that over 22 million people apply for this program each year, making it difficult but not impossible to win. In fact, the chances of winning are between 1 and 5 percent (1-5%). 

5) Asylum or Refugee Status

If you are fleeing persecution in your home country and you wish to live permanently in the United States, you may be able to apply for asylum or refugee status, and a Permanent Resident Card a year later.

6) Special Immigrant Categories

The USCIS has several special categories of immigrants who may be eligible for legal status. This includes certain religious workers, Afghan or Iraqi translators, and victims of human trafficking.

What Is the Easiest Way To Get Legal Permanent Residency in the United States?

Technically, there is no easiest way to get a green card. It all depends on your eligibility and the specifics of your application. That said, the USCIS processes certain green card applications faster than others. This is what makes certain petitions for lawful permanent residence seem easier than others.

Keep in mind that ‘processing,’ when it comes to the USCIS, does not necessarily mean approval. On the contrary, it means ‘reviewing’ a petition and making a decision, which could either be an approval, denial, or request for further information

The processing times for your particular green card category will determine how soon you should expect the green card after approval. Generally, family-based green card applications, especially those involving individuals married to U.S. citizens, are processed faster than other applications. For context, as of April 2023, the USCIS processes 80% of marriage-based green cards within 10 to 28 months. 

The USCIS also processes employment-based green card applications faster than most petitions. For instance, as of April 2023, the average processing time for an employment-based green card in Honolulu, Hawaii, is five months. 

These processing times are subject to change without notice. For this reason, it is always advisable to use the Case Processing Tool on the USCIS website to track the processing time for your particular green card application. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Green Card?

There is no standard green card cost. This is because of the different categories available for qualifying individuals, as discussed earlier. For example, as of April 2023, the USCIS charges a filing fee of $1760 for a family-based green card application (marriage-green card) if the foreign national applies from within the United States. On the other hand, the filing fee is $1200 if they reside outside the United States. 

This fee does not cover the cost of a green card medical exam, which varies based on the healthcare provider. 

NOTE: A new proposal by the USCIS seeks to significantly increase government filing fees for a green card in 2023. If approved, some categories, such as marriage-based green cards, will cost $3,640, up from $1,760. 

That’s a 106% increase in government filing fees. 

Although the proposal is still in the pipeline, it has already received a lot of criticism from the general public. Initially, the USCIS had set up a public commentary system to gather feedback from the public about the proposed price hike. By March 13, the deadline for public commentary, the government agency had received over 6,000 comments, mostly negative. 

To check the latest green card costs, use the Fee Calculator tool available on the USCIS website. 

Will I Get a Green Card Faster if I Live in the United States?

Whether you live in the United States or not does not necessarily influence how fast you will obtain a green card. The process of obtaining a green card can take several months or even years, regardless of where you live.

However, living in the United States may give you certain advantages that could expedite the process. For instance, if you are already in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, you may be able to apply for an adjustment of status to obtain a green card without leaving the country. 

This can save time and resources compared to applying for a green card from outside the United States, which often involves a lengthy consular processing stage.

Additionally, being physically present in the United States may make it easier for you to attend USCIS appointments and interviews, provide additional evidence or documentation as requested, and promptly respond to any USCIS inquiries. This can help speed up the green card process. 

How Long Is a Lawful Permanent Resident Card Valid?

A green card is usually valid for 10 years. However, the expiration date may vary depending on the individual circumstances of the green card holder. For instance, green cards awarded for marriages less than two years old when the green card is granted are conditional and valid for only two years. 

In that case, the temporary green card holder must apply for removal of conditions within 90 days of the card’s expiration date to obtain the typical 10-year green card.

Final Thoughts

So, all said and done, how hard is it to get a green card? 

The answer to the question of whether getting a green card is difficult depends on your individual circumstances. Given the high number of green card applications the USCIS receives yearly and the low percentage of approved applications, it is safe to say that getting a green card can be challenging for most applicants. 

To improve your chances of success, ensure you understand the eligibility requirements for that particular Permanent Resident Card category. Also, remember to provide all the required supporting documentation. Even better, consider hiring a seasoned green card lawyer to help you navigate the green card application process. 


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