Individuals who intend to acquire lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. must obtain immigrant visas at the US consulate or embassy in their jurisdiction.
The first step is to file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You may get a relative or employer to sponsor you or self-petition or use the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. The most common approach is through family contact or employment. A qualified relative, i.e. an Indian expat with permanent resident status, or a potential US employer files a petition at the USCIS office in the US on your behalf. It is also possible to file an Immediate Relative petition at an overseas USCIS office provided you have resided in the country for at least six months.
Once the petition is approved by the USCIS, it is sent to the US State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC), which completes the initial processing and forwards the petition to the embassy or consulate in the place where you reside. NVC schedules your interview at your nearest consulate office. You will receive an interview appointment letter with additional instructions – Urgent India visa processing payment details and required documents – within six to eight weeks of your petition. At the interview, you need to produce both originals and photocopies of your documents, such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, valid passport, evidence of financial support, official offer of employment, photographs, and other certificates. US embassy or consulate offices are located in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bangalore.
The embassy will return your original documents after your interview is completed. If your visa application is accepted, it will return your passport with the immigrant visa and a sealed package of immigration documents which must be handed over to the Indian Visa For US Citizens official when you enter the US. Once you receive your visa, you must pay the USCIS immigrant fee before entering the US, a mandatory requirement to get your Permanent Resident Card.
Alternatively, Indians in USA residing continuously for five years or more can apply for permanent resident status. The timeframe is reduced to three years if you are the spouse of a US citizen, are a child of a US citizen, or have served the US armed forces honorably. For example, an H-1B visa holder, who is eligible to remain in the US for up to six years, may eventually apply for a green card.