A Green Card, also known as a Permanent Residency Card is a document which allows citizens of other countries to permanently reside and work or in the United States. This document has a validity of ten years, after which the holder is required to apply for a renewal. Green Card holders are still considered to be citizens of their home country, although they can apply for US citizenship after a five year period.
BENEFITS OF OBTAINING PERMANENT RESIDENCY STATUS IN THE US
- A permanent resident will be allowed to seek employment in any field and live in the US for as long as they wish. They are also allowed to study in all learning institutions without the need to obtain additional immigration clearance.
- Permanent residents can petition to have their family members to also get green cards and immigrate into the US. This privilege is however limited only to close family members such as their spouse or children.
- Green card holders can apply for US citizenship after five years. This comes with added benefits such as the right to vote or hold public office and immunity against deportation.
THE DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN APPLY FOR A GREEN CARD
Under the US immigration law, permanent residency status can be acquired through the following avenues:
PETITION BY A FAMILY MEMBER
PETITION FOR ALIEN WORKERS AND INVESTORS
If you have a close family member who is either a citizen or a permanent resident in the United States, you can be apply for a green card to enable you to join them in the US. The relative who sponsors you into the US will be required to fill a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). You can then proceed to apply for permanent residency by filling the Green Card application form (Form I-485). Once the application gets processed, you will be invited for an interview with an immigration officer and thereafter your application will either be approved or denied.
Spouses and children (younger than 21 years) of US citizens are usually given the first priority (F1 preference). Children of US citizens who are older than 21 can also apply for permanent residency status, regardless of whether they are married or not.
The second priority (F2 preference) is given to children and spouses of permanent residents of the US. Under the F2 category, only a limited number of applications get approved each year on a first-come first-served basis. This means that each application is placed on a waiting list and it may take several years for yours to be processed.
This type of application targets immigrants who wish to seek employment in the United States. This includes skilled workers, unskilled workers, trained professionals, outstanding academic scholars, people with exceptional ability in arts and athletics or entrepreneurs willing to invest at least $1 million in the US.
As an alien worker making an application for permanent residency, you will need an employer inside the US to fill a petition (Form I-140) declaring that they require your services. This means that you first have to be accepted for a job position in a company that operates in the United States. When filling the petition, your prospective employer will also have to prove that there are no qualified US citizens willing to work in the position you have applied for, and that you have the right skills required for the job.
If you are very talented or skilled in a particular field related to academics, sports, arts or business, you can apply for permanent residency without an employer’s recommendation. You will however need to prove to the immigration authorities that your skills are truly exceptional before your application gets approved.
As an investor seeking to establish a business inside the US, you will first be required to show that you have already invested or are planning to invest $1 million in a specific employment area. The business you set up also has to employ at least 10 US citizens on a permanent basis.
The Diversity Visa program was set up through the Immigration Act of 1990 to bring more diversity into the population of the US by allowing a fixed number of immigrants into the country on a yearly basis. This program allows people from all over the world to apply regardless of their race, gender or educational background. 50,000 entries are then randomly selected to receive green cards through a lottery-like system. This method has fewer restrictions and requirements. However, due to the fact that more than 20 million people apply for this lottery on an annual basis, the chances of selection are particularly slim since only 50,000 entries get selected from the applications.
After winning the lottery, you will still need to sit for an interview with an immigration officer and fulfill a few specific requirements before you are issued with a green card. You also have to show that you will be financially secure after moving into the US, either based on your own assets or someone you know in the US who will be able to support you. This means that winning the diversity lottery does not always guarantee that you will become a permanent resident.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU GET YOUR GREEN CARD?
Becoming a permanent resident in the US will allow you to enjoy most of the benefits that a US citizen receives. Apart from being able to work, study and start a business, you will also be in a position to petition for your close family members to join you as permanent residents. However, you won’t be able to vote, work for the federal government or hold public office. You can nevertheless enjoy these privileges if you succeed in applying for US citizenship after living in the country for five years.
REVOCATION OF PERMANENT RESIDENCY STATUS
Unfortunately, a permanent residency card can also get revoked, and when this happens, the holder will be deported. This may occur on instances such as:
- When a permanent resident commits a major felony while living in the US such as terrorism and fraud.
- If the immigration authorities discover that false information was used to obtain the permanent residency card.
- If a permanent resident stays outside the US for an extended period of more than one year without obtaining a re-entry permit from the immigration authorities.