Commonly referred to as “getting a green card,” gaining permanent residency is an important step for immigrants who want to live in the United States.
Generally, immigrants already living in the country will file for an “adjustment of status” in order to receive their green card. On the other hand, applicants living in foreign countries will instead apply for permanent residency through their local consulate.
In both cases, you’ll have to attend an interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer or consular officer before receiving your green card. These interviews vary in length and subject
For example, if you’re applying for a marriage-based green card, the interview might focus on your wedding or your relationship with your spouse.
This interview is the last step you’ll have to complete in the permanent residency application process, but there are still a few things which can happen afterward.
Make note, however, that the timeline we’ll be covering in this article is only the way the process is supposed to work. It’s not unusual for USCIS’s decision, or even the green card itself, to be delayed for weeks, and even sometimes months.
What Happens After Your Green Card Interview
After a USCIS Interview
Typically, the USCIS officer will tell you whether or not you’ll receive a green card as soon as the interview finishes. However, this is not always the case.
In some cases, however, the USCIS officer will put off their final decision due to a lack of evidence. In this situation, they may mail you a “Request for Additional Evidence,” also known as an “RFE.”
USCIS officers generally issue RFEs if something unusual comes up in your interview, or if they simply think something is missing from your application. You’ll usually have between 30 and 90 days to respond to an RFE with the requested information.
USCIS will only issue a final decision on your green card application after they have all the information they need. For this reason, you may have to wait for several weeks or months while dealing with RFEs and other similar issues.
After a Consular Interview
If you are interviewed in a consulate, when the consular officer approves your application they will insert a stamp into your passport. This stamp will act as proof of your permanent residency status until your official green card arrives in the mail.
In addition, approved applicants living in foreign countries will receive a sealed immigration packet. Do not open this packet.
When you arrive at a U.S. port of entry, a border agent will ask to see your sealed immigration packet. They will not accept your packet if it’s already opened, and will most likely deny you entry into the country as a result.
If an officer denies your application for a green card, they will usually take the time to explain why they denied you. They will do so either in person or through your rejection notice.
Remember that you should always wait for your official denial paperwork to arrive in the mail before making any decisions about what to do next.
For marriage-based green card applicants, the officer may also request a fraud interview. The fraud interview usually takes place immediately after an initial green card interview. In it, the officer will separate you from your spouse and ask each of you several questions about your relationship. They will then compare your answers for any discrepancies.
If USCIS asks you to perform a fraud interview, you shouldn’t worry too much. Sadly, marriage fraud is fairly common, and USCIS prefers to be thorough with applicants applying under this type of green card.
If you need to prepare for a fraud interview, don’t hesitate to hire a lawyer to help you adequately prepare.
Notification of Decision
USCIS is supposed to send out an official notification of their decision within 30 days of your interview.
If USCIS approves your application, this notification will include a welcome letter. If they deny your application, the notification will include the reasons why, as well as documents detailing how you might appeal this decision.
However, this timeline is extremely optimistic.
Often, this process can take much longer due to RFEs and other factors mentioned earlier. In reality, you might have to wait several months before receiving notification of their decision.
Notification of Approval
If you are approved for permanent residency you will receive a welcome letter from USCIS describing your new rights and responsibilities as a resident of the United States.
They will then send you your green card through the mail, as detailed below.
Generally, you will receive your green card several months after your notification of approval. However, it could arrive as quickly as 30 days after you receive your notification of approval.
You should periodically check myUSCIS for more information on this process.
Once you receive the green card in the mail, you may begin applying for jobs using the green card as proof of eligibility to work in the United States. You will not need any other employment authorization documents.
You may also apply for an unrestricted social security card and a drivers license. Your green card also allows you to travel abroad. However, USCIS requires that you return to the U.S. within a year.
Generally, your green card will not expire for 10 years. Near the end of your 10th year, you should file Form I-90 to renew your green card. Conditional permanent residents must instead renew their green card before the end of their second year of permanent residency.
Notification of Denial
If USCIS denies your application, they’ll send you a letter in the mail stating the reasons for their decision. The letter will also indicate whether you can file an appeal.
In some cases, you may be able to file a motion to reopen or reconsider. However, only the petitioner (or sponsor) may file a motion or appeal, not the beneficiary. The motions to reopen and reconsider must be filed with Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
Not every denial decision can be appealed. If your notice of decision letter doesn’t include this appeals section, you must accept the decision. For some residents, this means you must also leave the country.
With few exceptions, USCIS decisions are made “without prejudice.”
This means that you may reapply for a green card as many times as you like. Of course, you should address your original reason for denial before spending the money and time on another application.
Will I Receive My Green Card Right After the I
No. As noted above, you’ll have to wait a few weeks or months to receive your green card after your interview. USCIS will only send out your green card after you receive your official approval notice.
A few common issues that might hold up this process include the RFEs mentioned earlier, as well as two additional security measures:
- Additional Security Reviews – USCIS will not send out your green card until all you pass all relevant background checks and other security measures.
- Processing Times – Sometimes you finish your interview before other parts needed for your application finish processing. In these cases, USCIS won’t send you your green card until these other processing times finish. For example, if the FBI is still processing your fingerprints, you won’t receive your green card until they finish.
During this waiting time you should check the status of your green card through the myUSCIS Case Status Search. You can do this both online and over the phone by entering the receipt number for your case.
Further, the actual timeline for when USCIS will mail your green card depends on whether you’re currently living in the United States or another country:
- If you’re living in the United States, USCIS will only mail you your green card after sending out your official approval notice. You will normally receive your official green card in the mail 45 days after receiving your approval notice.
- If you’re living abroad, USCIS will only mail you your green card after you’ve entered the country and established a permanent mailing address. USCIS does not mail green cards to addresses outside of the country.
You will not receive your green card immediately after your interview, even if the officer approves your application.
While USCIS may state that you’ll receive your green card within 60 days of your interview, this isn’t always the case.
When applying for a green card you should always hire an experienced immigration attorney to make sure the process goes smoothly.
An attorney can help you navigate the common pitfalls which tend to surround the immigration process and make sure that your application is filed correctly and completely the first time, saving you a great deal of time and money.