Ask the U.S. Consul July 2016

Visa photo

Question: How do I apply for a Green Card?

Answer:  Before applying for an immigrant visa, commonly known as a Green Card, you should first determine if you are eligible by checking

The most common method of eligibility is through a qualifying family relationship.  If you have a parent, sibling, or child who is either an American citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card-holder), you may be eligible to apply.  The details of your eligibility vary depending on your relationship with the relevant person in the United States, so be sure to do your research online.

The second most common route for eligibility for this type of visa is through an employer in the United States.  For most people who qualify via this method, this means already having a job offer at a company in the United States before you even start the immigration process.

Regardless of your route to eligibility, the next step will be the same.  In order for someone living outside the United States to apply for an immigrant visa, the relevant family member or employer already living inside the United States must file a document known as an “immigrant petition” on your behalf.

After your family member or employer has successfully petitioned for you to immigrate, which can take from a few months to several years depending on the qualifying relationship and visa classification, you will gather documents in preparation for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain.  These documents include a police certificate, a medical examination, and many official forms from the U.S. government.   At the interview, an American officer asks questions about your life and your relationship to the person who submitted the petition on your behalf.  If everything has been done correctly and you qualify for the visa, the officer will inform you of the decision and you will receive your immigrant visa via DHL in one to two weeks.

While there are other ways to qualify for an immigrant visa, such as through the Diversity Visa program (sometimes called the “Green Card lottery”), the two methods mentioned above describe how the vast majority of immigrants enter the United States.  Information on the Diversity Visa program is available at

It can seem like a lot of work but U.S. immigration law is constructed in a way that ensures families can reunite, and qualified workers can start new careers in the U.S. for the rest of their lives, which is a big deal.  So, please have patience—and good luck!