A green card gives citizenship

Green card for the USA - requirements & application for the lottery

“From dishwasher to millionaire…”, once a prospect that motivated many courageous and also many desperate people to take the arduous and dangerous journey across the pond to start a new life in the United States of America. Today the journey is comparatively quick and safe. But if you are interested in immigrating and staying in the USA permanently and indefinitely, you have to overcome some hurdles nonetheless. One of the largest is the green card. The official name of the green card is United States Permanent Resident Card.

Table of Contents
What is the green card and where did it get its name from? | Who can get a green card? | How can I apply for a green card? | Special case: the green card lottery | Does every family member need their own green card? | My application for a green card has been approved - what now? | Is the green card valid for a lifetime? Does the green card expire or does it have to be applied for again? | What is the green card re-entry permit? | What rights do I have with the green card? | What costs should I expect? | What happens if you lose your green card? How can I return it? | The history of the green card

The good news is that the stop on green cards issued by Donald Trump has now been lifted by President Joe Biden. Nevertheless, you sometimes have to be patient for many years before you can hold the coveted ID in your hands and call yourself a green card holder. We have put together some useful information about the green card itself and how to apply for an immigrant visa to the popular immigration country for you.

Win a Green Card now and live the American dream!

What is the green card and where did it get its name from?

The green card is an identification document of the USA, which shows that the holder is allowed to stay in the United States of America permanently and indefinitely. This group of people is also known as Lawful permanent resident (LPR). The green card is not synonymous with citizenship or naturalization, but grants the foreign citizen permanent residence in the United States of America and is associated with various rights (and obligations). For example, working in the USA with the green card is possible without any restrictions.

The green card takes its name from the green color of the first "Alien Cards" issued by the United States of America in the 1940s. The official, albeit very unknown, name of the green card is United States Permanent Resident Card.

Who can get a green card?



Theoretically, every holder of a Green Card and thus a Lawful Permanent Resident can become. There are different categories under which an applicant can apply for such an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Some categories are so rare that applicants do not have to wait long for their permanent residence permit. Others are so overcrowded that it can take up to 25 years for applicants to hold their ID and immigrate to the United States as a green card holder.

The two main groups are family-based green cards for family members and green cards for “employees”. A third grouping brings together all other possible buyers of the green card.

Family-based green cards - family reunification

If foreign nationals wish to live in the US permanently, an immigrant visa (IV) is required. In order to be able to apply for this residence permit, the foreign citizen must be sponsored by a direct relative (e.g. parents). This family relative cannot be a minor (at least 21 years old) and must be either a US citizen or a permanent resident.

There are two types of family-based immigrant visas. The first is the visa for immediate relatives for family reunification, which relates to close family members such as the parents, spouse or child, and the visas in the “Family Preference” area. The latter relate to more distant family relationships with a US citizen and some specific relationships with green card holders, and exist in limited numbers each year.

Green cards for employees / employees

If you want to fill a job in a company in the USA, you may receive a green card as an employee if he or she has special training, work experience, special skills or another qualification that no US citizen or green card holder can produce . This can be the case with researchers, for example. This green card regulation makes it very difficult for employees to get hold of a green card. In addition, the number of immigrant visas based on the job is limited to 140,000 per year.

Basically, the visas for people with special professional skills can be divided into 5 categories:

  • EB-1: Preferred Employees
    (e.g. outstanding researchers and scientists, managers and executives in business, internationally recognized athletes)
  • EB-2: People with special qualifications
    (e.g. people with a university degree and people with special scientific, economic or artistic skills). The prerequisite is a job offer from a US employer that cannot be filled by a US citizen.
  • EB-3: Academics, skilled workers, other workers
    (People with a higher education, skilled workers with at least two years of professional experience and qualified workers who are needed in the USA. Here, too, no US citizen may be available for the respective job)
  • EB-4: Church workers, special immigrants
    Applicants must have worked for the church or congregation in their home country for at least two years.
  • EB-5: Investors
    Investors have to put a certain amount of money into starting or expanding a US business enterprise, which will create at least ten new jobs. In the case of investors, the green card is initially only granted for two years.

Does an activity have to be proven before the start of the procedure?

Does an activity have to be proven before the start of the green card procedure? If you want to go through the procedure for receiving a green card in categories EB-2 and EB-3, you must already have a specific job offer in the USA when you fill out the application form. This offer from a potential employer is then examined by the competent authority as part of the so-called “Labor Certification” and, if necessary, rejected if the authority comes to the conclusion that the national labor market already has employees whose training allows them to perform the job on an equivalent basis . The chance that there are no suitable skilled workers on the labor market in the USA is rather small, which makes emigrating via this route rather difficult.

Note: A green card is not the only way to get a work permit in the US. A work visa is sufficient as a work permit. Studies or work & travel are also easily possible with the appropriate visa.

Different regulations apply in the other categories. For example, entrepreneurs and investors can apply for a green card using the application form if they create new jobs in the US as part of their immigration. A “self petition” by people with extraordinary abilities is also possible. There is also a separate application form for this.

Additional option: the green card raffle

There is also the option of receiving a green card for permanent residence through a lottery. In this way, 55,000 green cards are distributed each year.

Win a Green Card now and live the American dream!

How can I apply for a green card?



First of all, there are hundreds of individual categories in this immigrant visa. The individual steps and procedures are different for each category. But there are also a few processes that apply to everyone without exception.

First of all, you can apply for permanent residence from within the USA (adjustment of status) or outside the USA (consular processing). First of all, the category in which you want to apply for the immigrant visa must be selected. Immigration sub-categories are very specific and it would be wise to consult an immigration lawyer when choosing. These lawyers are usually great experts on green cards.

Generally, someone else (relative, employer) needs to petition the applicant. This can be done at the same time as the application for a green card. After the petition for the potential immigrant has been approved by the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and a visa in the selected category is available, you apply for the green card for yourself and, if necessary, your spouse or other person at the USCIS or the U.S. Department of State.

The availability of a visa in the selected category in general and the length of the waiting time are ultimately a pure numbers game. If many other people have already applied for a visa in this category in the same period, then you slide onto a waiting list. Hence the already mentioned waiting period of up to 25 years for the immigrant visa.

This is followed by an appointment in the green card application process to take fingerprints, photos and a signature at the consulate in Frankfurt. This is followed by an interview at the consulate and then you will receive the notification of acceptance or rejection of the application for a green card.

tip: Get there in time. It is recommended to be at the consulate around 60 minutes before the actual appointment.

Special case: the green card lottery

In addition to the “normal” green card application, there is also the option of participating in the green card lottery (DV lottery) and with a little luck, as a potential immigrant, you can get your green card faster and use the “ Diversity Visa Lottery ”to become a Lawful Permanent Resident. The official name of the green card lottery is "Electronic Diversity Visa Program".

As an applicant, you can imagine the process of the DV lottery as follows

To take part in the Green Card Lottery, visit the government website https://dvprogram.state.gov. Here the Department of State accepts applications from participants free of charge. The link to register for the next year will be activated there in May. The actual participation in the lottery then takes place around October of each year.

Citizens of some countries are not allowed to participate as more than 50,000 people have immigrated to the USA from these countries in the last 5 years. An up-to-date list of which countries are involved can also be viewed on the Department of State website. No more than 7 percent of the winners may come from one country.

Alternatively, you can pay an agency to hand over the lottery ticket. This is possible from a fee of around 50 euros. But beware! There are some fraudulent companies in this area who offer a service without ever actually executing it. The agency “The American Dream”, for example, enjoys a good reputation here.

After completing the online form on the Department of State website, attendees will be given a confirmation number that they should keep. After registering, you can check the status of your lot number at any time within a certain period of time using a link on the above page.

This is also the great advantage of taking part in the green card raffle without the intermediary of an organization. Because this way you have control over the registry
is actually successful (or you have not been registered multiple times, which would lead to exclusion) and can independently find out the current status in order not to miss whether you are one of the winners of the Green Card.

Requirements for participating in the green card lottery

The Electronic Diversity Visa Program was created to attract more immigrants from countries that typically have very few immigrants. In order to be able to participate in the Electronic Diversity Visa program at all and to get the chance to win the Green Card via the lottery, some requirements must be met:

  • A secondary school leaving certificate or a higher educational qualification or completed vocational training in a profession in which you can demonstrate at least two years of professional experience within the last five years. The final degree must match that of high school in the United States to qualify. In Germany, for example, this is achieved with the completion of secondary school. Anyone who went to school abroad must be able to prove 12 years of schooling by the time they graduate. The reason for this number is that it takes twelve years to graduate from high school in the United States.
  • a valid passport
  • Citizenship of one of the allowed countries. There are some countries excluded from the lottery. If the place of birth is in one of these countries, participation in the lottery is unfortunately not an option. The countries in which the place of birth cannot be located include: Bangladesh, Brazil, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Great Britain (except Northern Ireland) and the associated areas, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica , Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam. There are exceptions if only one of the spouses was born in an exclusion country or if your own date of birth is in a period in which the parents were only temporarily in the country and both were not born there (e.g. residence due to studies or professional activity).

Fulfilling the green card requirements is mandatory. Exceptions are not possible. So if you are interested in immigrating to the land of unlimited opportunities as part of the raffle, you may have to catch up on the necessary school leaving certificate or a corresponding professional training and activity.

Lottery won = green card?

As a DV visa applicant, you make an appointment for the interview via the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC). The responsible consulate in Germany is the US consulate general in Frankfurt, not the US embassy in Berlin.

The following must be presented on the day of the interview:

  • Appointment confirmation (available online for printing on the E-DV website)
  • DS-260 confirmation page,
  • Passport,
  • two identical photos (attention: if the requirements are not met, the photo will not be accepted),
  • Processing fee,
  • all necessary documents as originals and copies for the applicant and any family members (if necessary with a certified translation), as well as a
  • Proof of medical examination by a recognized medical officer.

Important: The medical data will be given to you in a sealed envelope as part of the green card interview. You must not open it beforehand! In some cases, the results are also sent directly to the embassy or consulate.

Win a Green Card now and live the American dream!

Does every family member need their own green card?

If the applicant includes spouses and children in the application, these family members will automatically receive a green card if the applicant's application has been approved. This rule applies to spouses in general and unmarried children under the age of 21 (up to this age in some states in the United States you are considered a minor). If the marriage is recognized under US law, same-sex spouses also receive a green card as eligible family members.

My application for a green card has been approved - what now?



Congratulations on your Green Card! Normally you should move your place of residence to the USA within 12 months. In any case, in order to activate the green card, you have to enter the USA before the end of the financial year in which you received the green card (September 30). The green card itself will then be sent 3 to 6 months after this activation trip to the address in the USA that was given when applying for the green card. You can also use the address of friends or relatives in the USA for this.

After that, you have to travel to the USA at least once in 364 days and decide to move after two to three years at the latest.

It is advisable to have important documents translated into English. However, this could possibly also be cheaper on site. An international birth certificate is a wise investment. All originals of important documents are best kept in hand luggage.

The first important official act after the approval of the Green Card is the application for a Social Security Card, which is used like an ID card. It is essential for opening an account or taking up a job. The German driving license can be used for a maximum of 12 months.

Is the green card valid for a lifetime? Does the green card expire or does it have to be applied for again?

Once the green card has been issued, it is valid for life, but has to be renewed every ten years - like the German passport. The extension is requested using the I-90 form. Even if the validity date on the green card has expired, the status of the green card is still valid.

However, the validity can be lost if you ...

  • ... stays outside the USA for more than 364 consecutive days without having received an application approval,
  • ... takes on American citizenship ("naturalization"),
  • ... returns the green card,
  • ... commits one or more criminal offenses.

What is the green card re-entry permit?

The Re-Entry Permit enables green card holders to stay outside the USA for longer than 365 days (12 months) at a time. This can be the case, for example, when traveling or on a very long vacation to other parts of the world or when you want or have to relocate to another country for a longer period of time for private or business reasons. If you then want to return to the USA, there may be problems with entry. This is where the Re-Entry Permit can help.

The re-entry permit can only be applied for within the USA and is only valid for trips of less than two years. Those who do not yet have a green card cannot apply for a re-entry permit, but must apply for an “Advance Parole” and can then leave and re-enter the USA.

The whole procedure is relatively sophisticated and lengthy and best to be read here in case of an emergency.

What rights do I have with the green card?

Once it has been successfully issued, holders of a green card have almost the same rights and entitlements as American citizens.

This includes:

  • No visa or ESTA is required to enter the United States.
  • You have freedom of travel within the USA.
  • There is no work restriction. You can accept any job.
  • You can also stay outside the USA for a longer period of time under the aforementioned conditions.
  • After five years you can apply for citizenship and, if necessary, acquire citizenship through naturalization.
  • There are no restrictions on pension insurance.
  • The military can be joined.
  • If you have lived in the country for more than five years, you are entitled to medicare benefits.
  • One can begin higher education at lower domestic fees after one year.

However, you are not allowed to vote with the green card. US citizenship is required for this.

What costs should I expect?

That depends on various factors. Participation in the Electronic Diversity Visa Program (Green Card Lottery) is free of charge on the official website of the Department of State. However, help can cost upwards of 50 euros.

Registration for permanent residence status costs 1,140 US dollars. The costs of the individual visas vary widely and are not very transparent. The application for a visa for a DS-160 form is $ 160. If you have to apply for your green card again (if lost), you pay 455 US dollars, the same amount is due after 10 years if the green card has to be renewed. There are also costs for biometric photos and fingerprints and various other fees.

What happens if you lose your green card? How can I return it?

If you lose your green card, you will need to apply for a reissue (Form I-90) and fees will apply. If you lose your green card outside of the United States, fill out Form I-131A and submit it so that you can re-enter.

If you would like to return your green card, you can do so at any time using the I-407 form. Like all other forms, the form is located on the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) website and is filled in with the green card and handed in at the consulate or the USCIS. By the way, visiting the site generally clears up many open questions.

However, the following should be noted here: If the taxable income is over US $ 127,000 and the assets exceed US $ 2 million and the possession of the green card was also more than 8 years in the last 15 years, the US tax authorities assume this that the green card was only applied for for tax reasons.

As a result, the person may only stay in the USA for a maximum of 30 days in the next 10 years, otherwise they will be fully taxable there again.

Win a Green Card now and live the American dream!

The history of the green card

In 1933, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was established as part of the Ministry of Labor, which in 1940 came under the Ministry of Justice. In the 1940s, the predecessor of the green card was still called the “Alien Registration Receipt Card”. The “Alien Registration Act” made it necessary for the first time in the history of the United States of America to register with one's data as an immigrant from abroad at the post offices.

The first green green cards were issued after World War II when the Internal Security Act of 1950 forced all immigrants to replace the Alien Registration Card with the green Form I-151. From then on, the ID was referred to as a green card. However, in the 50s to 70s of the last century more and more forgeries of the green card came into circulation and so the green card was revised 17 times between 1952 and 1977. The color scheme was also changed. In 1977 the fragile piece of paper became a real card in the sense of a driver's license or a credit card. The form I-551, as the green card was called from now on, has been machine-readable since then.

In 1996 the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act” was passed. Since then, all green cards issued before 1979 have been invalid and only the I-551 format of the “Alien Registration Receipt Card” is still valid. In the years 1997 to 2010 there was then the “Permanent Resident Card” based on the form I-551, which is still the same. As a result, the Green Card turned green again from 2010 to 2017. The last of these green cards will expire in 2027. This card is very secure thanks to holography, RFID and laser-cut fingerprints. The latest green card with even more sophisticated graphics and the features mentioned above has been available since 2017.