Becoming a Permanent Resident: How to Get Your Green Card

Becoming a permanent resident in the U.S. is a confusing, time-consuming process. Complex immigration laws that are subject to change make it even more challenging. Therefore, understanding the basics about applying for a green card is important. Here are the most frequently asked questions about getting your green card:

What is a Green Card?

Believe it or not, a green card is actually a plastic ID card with a green background.  

Legally speaking, a green card is an immigration document that is proof of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the U.S.  As a permanent resident, you have permission to work and live indefinitely in the United States.  Being a permanent resident can also lead to better work opportunities, and can give you access to federal financial aid for your education.  With a green card, you can leave and re-enter the United States, allowing you to travel abroad to see family, go on vacation, or attend professional conferences. Finally, as a permanent resident, you can file an immigration petition for other family members such as your spouse or child.

Am I Eligible for a Green Card?

Most green card processes fall under one of the following categories:

  • Family-Based: Green cards based on your family relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  This may include a spouse, parent, child, or sibling. 
  • Employment-Based: An employer or sponsoring agency will petition for you based on your special skills or profession. 
  • Humanitarian: Protections available for survivors of trauma or abuse or those who face harm if forced to return to their home country. Green card options exist through VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), SIJS (Special Immigrant Juvenile Status), U Visas for crime victims, T visas for trafficking survivors, and Asylum.

In all cases, the underlying petition must be filed and approved in order for you to be eligible for a green card. Sometimes the underlying petition can be filed together with the green card application – a process known as “one-step adjustment of status.”  Other times, the underlying petition and green card application must be filed in separate steps.

When Can I Apply to Become a Permanent Resident?

Before filing your green card application, you must ensure that a visa is available to you.  If you file your application before the eligible date, your case may be rejected.  

Immigration sets limits on how many visas/green cards can be issued each year for certain categories of visas.  These numerical limits exist for certain family-based, employment-based, and humanitarian cases.

As a result, you should refer to the current visa bulletin to determine whether (or when) you can file for a green card.  For spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, there are no annual limitations and visas are always available. Other categories, however, are subject to backlogs because there are more applicants than visas available. The wait time can be anywhere from months to years.

Help with Your Green Card Application

You do not have to go through this process alone! Origin Immigration Law staff can answer your questions and help you file for your petition if needed. 

If you have your green card, we can help determine if you are eligible for Naturalization. Individuals who already have green cards may be eligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.  Depending on your case, you may be eligible for naturalization within just a few years after getting your green card.  In most cases, you must demonstrate English proficiency, knowledge of U.S. history/government, and good moral character. 

We can screen you for eligibility and can help you with early filing as well as fee waivers if you have limited income and cannot afford the government filing fee.  We prepare you thoroughly for the interview and can attend the interview with you.  


Contact us today to discuss your immigration law needs. 

Meet Las Cruces Immigration Lawyer Lauren Armstrong

Becoming a permanent resident or citizen of the United States is a dream for people all over the world. Those who pursue it sometimes do so at great risk. It costs time and money. Families may sometimes be left behind. Each person’s story and circumstances are unique.


How do you do it? Who do you trust? It starts with finding a reputable immigration lawyer near you. For immigrants in Las Cruces, New Mexico and beyond, that’s Lauren Armstrong.


A Trusted Las Cruces Immigration Lawyer

Ms. Armstrong is passionate about immigration law because it’s life-changing. “I know how frustrating and scary the process can be to get your green card or citizenship. And for me, it’s really a privilege to help guide somebody through that so they can find freedom and safety at the end,” she says.


Ms. Armstrong’s experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama shaped her desire to work for social justice and help create access to services for community members. After going to law school, Ms. Armstrong worked in the non-profit sector in Washington, DC, where she handled her very first immigration cases.  Ms. Armstrong saw firsthand the transformation that could occur in a person’s life when they were able to legalize their status. As an immigration lawyer in the borderlands with over ten years’ experience, Ms. Armstrong serves as a bridge between the immigration system and the people who need to navigate it. 

About Origin Immigration Law

In 2021, Ms. Armstrong started her own firm, Origin Immigration Law. The firm’s core philosophy is to be 100% honest with clients. “I believe that clients deserve to have a very straightforward assessment of all their options,” she says.  “We want clients to be actively involved in their case and to know what to expect in the process.” Through this open communication, clients will always feel prepared and supported.

What Ms. Armstrong loves most about the job is the opportunity to connect with each client she serves. The immigration process involves an inquiry into every aspect of a person’s life, and trust is a very important part of the process.  Ms. Armstrong builds lasting relationships with each client and helps families adapt to the ever-changing landscape of immigration laws.


Honoring the Journey

Every person that walks through the door (or that Ms. Armstrong meets virtually) brings a new journey, a new story and new opportunity to help someone find freedom and stability. She is fully committed to honoring each client’s lived experience. The firm’s values are closely tied to her personal values. 


Whether you are seeking a green card, want to become a naturalized citizen, or need protection because of violence or trauma you experienced, Ms. Armstrong and her team are here for you. We take the time to understand your whole story, and do so with compassion and respect. Understanding the whole picture helps us to identify all of your options so that you can make the right choice for your future.

“We have specialized expertise in many different facets of immigration law,” she says. She and her team will explore your case individually, and approach the process with honesty, excellence, and integrity. 

Get in touch with your questions today.