What Happens After I Apply for the Green Card?

What Happens After I Apply for the Green Card?

Immigrating to the United States is a multi-step process. However, even the final application for the Green Card (becoming a lawful permanent resident) has multiple steps.

As a general rule, you have to be in lawful status to apply for the Green Card in the United States. This process is called adjustment of status and is often referred to as the I-485 (the form number for the application) or an application to register permanent residence. The Green Card is the document you get when you become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. In this article, I briefly explain the different steps in the final Green Card application.

Will I be fingerprinted?

You will be fingerprinted when you apply for lawful permanent residence (the Green Card). Citizenship and Immigration Services will schedule your for fingerprinting usually within a month or two of filing for the Green Card. The fingerprinting is an essential step in completing the background checks.

After you have been fingerprinted, USCIS will complete a background check.  If you are arrested for any criminal matter you should immediately contact a qualified immigration attorney to make sure that this will not affect your status.

When do I get my work permit?

You should receive your employment authorization document in the mail within three months of being fingerprinted.

The work permit is valid for one year. However, there are times when you may need to extend the card. As long as the Green Card application is pending, it is possible to renew the work permit.

How do I get a Social Security number?

If you do not already have a valid Social Security Number, you must apply for one with the Social Security Administration. You will need to have your work permit in hand before you apply for a Social Security Number. The Social Security Administration will require you to present your original employment authorization card, your passport, and, if you are married, your marriage certificate.  They will verify your information with Citizenship and Immigration Services before giving you the Social Security Number. This typically takes between two and six weeks.

How do I apply for a Driver’s License?

Each state has specific rules regarding the issuance of driver’s licenses. Generally, you must show your passport, I-94, any employment authorization document, and your social security card. In Connecticut, non-US citizens must show proof of lawful status in this country.

Can I travel outside the United States?

Every person applying for a Green Card can apply for a travel document called an advance parole. If you apply for a travel document when you apply for the work permit, you will receive one document (a “combo card”) that serves as both the work permit and the advance parole.

Every person who is thinking of traveling internationally while a Green Card application is pending should talk to a qualified immigration attorney. Your ability to leave the United States while your Green Card case is pending can be very limited. If you travel at the wrong time or without the proper documents to return to the United States, you may have to apply a second time for the Green Card or you may be stuck outside the United States waiting six months or longer for an interview at the United States consulate.

Do I have to register for Selective Service?

United States law requires all men, including lawful permanent residents and applicants for lawful permanent residence, between the ages of 18 and 26 to register for the draft.  Failing to register for the draft affects eligibility to naturalize.

Will I be interviewed?

Marriage-based Green Card applicants are always interviewed with their spouses before USCIS approves their cases. Other family-based Green Card cases often have interviews, although it depends on the relationship and the person’s immigration history and criminal record. Employment-based cases may have interviews, although usually USCIS makes a decision without an interview. In Connecticut, most interviews happen within nine months of filing the Green Card application.

How do I change my address?

You must notify Citizenship and Immigration Services within ten (10) days of moving.

This can be done online at https://www.uscis.gov. You will find the link to both the form and the online address change in the Immigration Forms under Change of Address.

You should keep a record of the address change. If you change your address online, the system will give you a confirmation number, which you should print and keep. If you change your address by mail, you should send the notice via certified mail to document that you notified Citizenship and Immigration Services.


When you are in the United States, the final step for becoming a lawful permanent resident is applying for adjustment of status. While the application is pending, USCIS conducts background checks and issues short term work and travel permits that you can use until they make a decision on your case. When the application is approved, you will receive a Green Card showing your new lawful permanent resident status.