Every year, more than 1 million immigrants arrive in the United States. Even though such a high number of immigrants make their way into the U.S., the process that each person undergoes can be quite different from the experience of another individual. This is because there isn’t one single way in which you can obtain a Green Card, or Permanent Resident Status, in the U.S.

There are actually several key ways in which obtaining a Green Card is possible, each varying in terms of difficulty and the length of time that it takes to receive your actual Green Card. Because the process can be incredibly complex, there is quite a lot that you might not know about if you are looking into things for the first time.

If you are currently looking to immigrate to the United States but aren’t sure about what category you fall into or how to go about starting the process of obtaining a Green Card, here are three key things that you should know right away:

1. You Might Need a Lawyer

While it isn’t always necessary in cases where you are the spouse or immediate relative of a citizen of the United States who can sponsor you, there are other instances where an experienced and knowledgeable immigration lawyer might be necessary. This is because the paperwork involved can be incredibly complex, and if you don’t get it completed correctly the first time around, then you can really harm your chances of getting a Green Card at all.

If English isn’t your first language, it can also be helpful to enlist the services of an experienced attorney. Knowing that your case is being handled by someone who understands the system and can press for quicker responses can bring you peace of mind and make the overall process much simpler.

2. Green Cards Aren’t Permanent

Even though a Green Card technically grants what is called Permanent Residency to the holder, they are not actually permanent. If you do succeed in obtaining a Green Card, you will need to apply for renewal every ten years in order to remain a legal resident of the United States.

The renewal process is nowhere near as complicated as the application and approval process and can actually be done online. You just need to ensure that this is completed within six months of the expiration date printed on your Green Card. 

3. Average Timings Vary

Because the U.S. government has different categories for those who are seeking permanent residency in the United States, the processing times vary greatly. For instance, if you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse or child, you could have your application processed in as little as seven months.

That being said, other categories can take much longer. You might find yourself waiting for up to 33 months. Some even have to wait many years in order to finally receive their Green Card. Knowing what category you fall under will help you understand your most likely scenario.

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