Getting A Green Card
Getting a Green Card
What is a Green Card?
An individual that completes all the steps to become a Permanent Resident of the United States will be granted a Permanent Resident card—also known as a “green card.” This green card is a plastic card with your biographic information, your fingerprint, your photo, and an expiration date, and is issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. When you obtain a green card, you then have the right to live and work in the United States indefinitely.
The green card is also known as an Alien Registration Card, and even Form I-551. The card was nicknamed a “green card” because at one time it was green. Today, the card is a yellowish color; your identifying information is stored on the magnetic barcode on the back of the card. Green cards have an expiration date of ten years and must be renewed, however, your status as a lawful permanent resident remains valid unless the U.S. government revokes your status.
Why Should You Work Toward Getting a Green Card?
There are many benefits to having a green card, and you will have most of the rights of a citizen of the United States once you obtain your green card. Other benefits include:
● You can work anywhere in the United States so long as you are qualified, and the work is legal.
● You are protected under all U.S., state, and local laws.
● You can legally reside permanently in the United States so long as you do not commit an act that would trigger deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
● You are allowed to vote in local elections that do not require U.S. citizenship.
It is worth noting that jobs with high-level security concerns are unlikely to hire an individual with a green card and that you may not vote in elections that are limited to U.S. citizens.
What is the Difference Between a Green Card and Citizenship?
While there are many benefits to having a green card, it is not the same as being a United States citizen. Once you have your green card you are allowed to live and work in the United States indefinitely. You may also petition for your closest family members to receive permanent residence status as well. Unfortunately, they could spend a great deal of time on a waiting list before being allowed to enter or remain in the United States. This is because there are only a limited number of immigrant visas available each year.
You will remain a citizen of your country of origin. This means when you travel outside the United States you must carry the passport of that country, along with your green card. Generally, if you spend six months to more than a year outside the United States it will be presumed that you abandoned your residence, and your green card could be lost.
If you commit specific criminal acts, commit a security violation, or fail to advise USCIS of a change of address, you could potentially be placed in removal proceedings and deported. Because of this, you should take the restrictions placed on your green card very seriously. After you have had your green card for five years, if you have shown good moral character and are able to speak, read, and write English as well as pass an exam on United States government and history, you may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
There are several ways a person can become a U.S. citizen: by birth, through having U.S. citizen parents (usually), or through naturalization. As a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for a U.S. passport, and you can leave and reenter the U.S. at will, with no restrictions on how long you are allowed to remain outside the country. You may also not be removed from the United States as a citizen (unless it is found that you committed fraud to obtain your green card or citizenship).
How Many Immigrants Obtain a Green Card Each Year?
There are currently only 140,000 green cards issued each year in the United States. Of the estimated 860,000 green card holders who apply for citizenship each year, only about 23 percent are approved. About 3 percent are denied, and 70 percent remain pending. Currently, it can take about twice as long to become a U.S. citizen once you have a green card as it took in 2017, which was about ten months.
What Are the Primary Countries of Origin of the Immigrants Applying for Green Cards?
According to migrationpolicy.org, the countries that typically are at the top of the list as far as immigrants from those countries applying for green cards include Mexico, China, Cuba, India, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines. There were about twice as many green cards issued to those from Mexico as from the next closest country, China. Following the Dominican Republic are Vietnam, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Haiti.
Green Card Eligibility Categories
To be eligible for a green card you must be in one of the following categories:
● Green card for human trafficking and crime victims—If you currently have a T nonimmigrant visa and are a human trafficking victim, or you currently have a U non-immigrant visa and are a victim of a crime.
● Employment-based green card—You may be eligible for a green card as a first preference immigrant worker (extraordinary ability in athletics, education, arts, or science) are an outstanding researcher or professor, a multinational manager or executive meeting specific criteria. As a second preference immigrant worker you must be a member of a profession requiring an advanced degree with exceptional ability in business, the arts, or the sciences. As a third preference immigrant worker you must be skilled or are a professional with at least a bachelor’s degree. You can also obtain an employment-based green card as an unskilled worker.
● Green card for victims of abuse—You could be eligible for a green card as the victim of abuse—a child that has been abused, abandoned, or neglected by your parent, the abused spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, or the abused parent of a U.S. citizen.
● Green card as a special immigrant—You may be eligible for this category if you are a member of a religious denomination coming to the U.S. to work for a nonprofit religious organization, a juvenile that needs the protection of the juvenile court, an Afghan or Iraqi translator or interpreter, an international broadcaster, or the employee of an international organization or NATO-6 employee or family member.
● Green card through refugee or asylum status—you may be eligible to obtain your green card via refugee or asylum status if you were granted asylum at least a year ago or were admitted as a refugee at least a year ago.
● Family-based green card—to apply for a family-based green card you must be the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. You can sponsor a family-based green card if you are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, certain other relatives of a U.S. citizen, or a relative of a lawful permanent resident (family-based preference categories only). You can be sponsored if you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the unmarried child of a U.S. citizen and are under the age of 21, or you are the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old. Furthermore, you can also be sponsored under the family-based preference system if you are the unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen (and you are 21 or older), the married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older or are the spouse of a lawful permanent resident or the unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident, and you are under the age of 21. You can also obtain a family-based green card if you are the fiancé of a U.S. citizen or the child of the fiancé of a U.S. citizen, the widower or widow of a U.S. citizen (married at the time of his or her death), abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or the abused parent of a U.S. citizen.
● There are certain other categories under which you may be eligible for a green card such as being an American Indian born in Canada, a person born in the U.S. to a foreign diplomat, and several other categories.
● Green card through registry—You could be eligible for a green card if you have resided continuously in the United States since before the first of January 1972.
What is the Process for Obtaining a Green Card?
Essentially, you will determine which category you are eligible to apply for a green card under, then you will file Form I-485 with the USCIS, including all supporting documents and fees. USCIS will review your application and schedule an interview with you.