To get a green card through family, the first step is to file Form I-130 and get it approved.
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is used to establish that a family relationship exists between a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) and someone who wants to move to the U.S. The person who files Form I-130 is the U.S. citizen or green card holder family member, not the person who wants the green card.
There are a few ways to become a green card holder, but the most common is through a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member (Form I-130) or through a U.S. employer (Form I-140).
After the I-130 Approval
Like most immigration processes, the next steps you’ll take after an I-130 approval will be different depending on your situation. In the case of a green card application, the steps will be different if you, as the green card applicant, are within the U.S. or applying from your home country.
If you are applying for your green card from within the U.S. and your family member’s filed Form I-130 has been approved by the USCIS, you must find out if you are eligible to adjust your status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and complete the whole process within the U.S.
If you are able to adjust your status, you would file Form I-485 (and go through the whole process of the application, which may include an interview with an immigration officer) and wait for its approval.
If you are applying for your green card from outside the U.S. and your family member’s I-130 has been approved, the USCIS will send the approved application to the Nevada Visa Center (NVC), which is the entity that handles green card applications from people who are applying from outside the U.S. It is the NVC’s responsibility to notify you if you have a visa number available for you.
The U.S. government puts limits on how many immigrant visa numbers are available each year for certain green card applicants. There is no limit of immigrant visa numbers for green card applicants who immediate family members of their Form I-130 sponsors (spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens, and parents of U.S. citizens).
If a visa number is available for you, then your next step will be to file an immigrant visa application, DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (and go through the whole process of the application, which normally includes an interview with an immigration officer at the U.S. consulate in your country).
If a visa number is not available for you, you will have to wait for notification from the NVC letting you know once you a number is available. Depending on your type of application and the country where you are from the waiting time can vary between a few months to several years.