Green Card/Permanent Residency

A “green card” is a nickname provided to a U.S. Permanent Resident identification card because of its former color. A green card is held by a non-citizen that allows them to live permanently in the United States and work.

How Do I Obtain A Green Card?

Before filing for a green card, you must first be sponsored by an immediate family member who is already a permanent resident or a U.S. Citizen. Immediate family members include your parents, spouse, or your children (over the age of 21). Other family members may be able to sponsor you, however, the process can take longer and require more documentation. You can also be sponsored by your employer or obtain a green card through asylum or other exceptions.

Once you have a path to a green card, you must meet certain eligibility requirements, including:

  • You must be considered admissible to the U.S. (meaning that you entered the U.S. legally, have not committed a felony or other specific crimes, are not a threat to national security, have not committed disqualifying immigration violations such as fraud and misrepresentation to obtain a benefit, etc.)
  • You must already have an immigrant visa available or in certain cases return to your home country for a consular process.
  • Meet the requirements for one of the immigrant categories listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The general steps to obtaining a green card are:

  1. Petition: Your sponsor will have to submit an immigration petition on your behalf unless applying for a green card through asylum or other exception.
  2. Petition Approved: Once the petition has been approved, you will submit your application and any required documentation to the USCIS.
  3. Biometrics Appointment: At this appointment, you will be fingerprinted, have your photo taken, and signature recorded.
  4. Interview: During the interview process you will meet with an agent from USCIS, embassy, or consulate, whichever agency or department may have jurisdiction over your case. Your eligibility for a green card will be reviewed during this interview.
  5. Decision: After your interview, you will receive notification from the USCIS or consulate if your residence was approved. If your application was denied, you will receive information on how to make an appeal.

If you are granted a conditional green card, know that is only valid for 2 years. Within 90 days in advance of your two-year conditional green card expiring, you will need to file Form I-751 (or Form I-829 for entrepreneurs) to remove this conditional status. If you do not, your green card will expire, and you are at risk for deportation. Once the conditional status is removed, you are granted a 10-year green card.

Although the 10-year green card may expire, the Permanent Residency Status of the green card holder does not. You will need to renew your green card, but do not need to worry about deportation because of an expired visa.

It is important to note that those with a green card, conditional or otherwise, can still be deported if they commit a felony or other crime that would make them inadmissible to the U.S. Only a U.S. Citizen cannot be deported.

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