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What is a Green Card?

A Green Card is the key to a new realm of opportunity, granting non-U.S. citizens lawful permanent residency in the United States. It's a ticket to live, work, and pursue the American Dream. With it comes the promise of freedom and a chance to contribute to the diverse tapestry of American life. Curious about the journey to getting one? Let's explore.
Jane Harmon
Jane Harmon

A green card, also known as a greencard, is a document that identifies someone who is not a US citizen but has been given permission to live in the US permanently - it is also called a US Permanent Resident card. At one point, the green card was actually green, but, like the used-car guide known as the 'blue book', it has been various colors throughout the years. Today's green card is white.

The permanent resident non-citizen must carry his or her green card at all times since it may be necessary to prove that they are in the country legally. It can also be used to prove residency status when applying for work. Non-permanent resident aliens need an Employment Authorization Document to be legally hired by a US employer, but the holder of a green card has implicit employment authorization.

Couples involved in a green card marriage may undergo scrutiny to make sure the couple married for love and not to manipulate immigration laws.
Couples involved in a green card marriage may undergo scrutiny to make sure the couple married for love and not to manipulate immigration laws.

The green card is for many the first step on the road to naturalization and full US citizenship, and is highly sought after. The official green card has a number of anti-forgery features to prevent it from being easily duplicated. Getting a green card, or permanently immigrating to the US, can be a lengthy process, and not everyone can qualify for one. You can obtain a green card if you are closely related to a US citizen -- a spouse, parent, child or sibling. If you have a job offer within the US, it can help you qualify for immigration and permanent residency through employment.

A green card marriage may occur between people who meet on a dating website.
A green card marriage may occur between people who meet on a dating website.

One unique qualification for permanent resident status and a green card is through investment. If you are willing to invest in creating a business in the US that will employ at least ten people, you may qualify for a green card. You will be required to prove you have the necessary capital for the enterprise, of course. If you are from a country with a low rate of immigration to the US, you may take part in a lottery that authorizes 50,000 permanent residency visas a year.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Green Card and who is eligible to apply for one?

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued by the U.S. government that grants immigrants the right to live and work permanently in the United States. Eligibility criteria include family relationships with U.S. citizens or permanent residents, employment offers or special job skills, refugee or asylum status, and participation in diversity visa lotteries. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides detailed eligibility categories on their website.

How long does it take to obtain a Green Card?

The processing time for a Green Card can vary widely depending on the category of eligibility and the applicant's country of origin. Family-based applications can take from 7 months to more than 10 years, while employment-based categories may range from 1 to 4 years. The USCIS provides processing times, which are updated regularly and can be checked on their official website for the most current information.

Can Green Card holders travel outside the United States?

Yes, Green Card holders can travel outside the United States. However, they must not abandon their U.S. residence, and trips abroad should generally be shorter than six months to avoid complications upon re-entry. Prolonged absences may lead to questioning about the holder's intent to maintain U.S. residence and can impact eligibility for naturalization. The USCIS website offers guidance on maintaining permanent resident status while traveling.

Is it possible to lose Green Card status, and if so, how?

Green Card status is not absolute; it can be lost. Actions that may lead to losing this status include committing serious crimes, failing to advise USCIS of changes in address, living outside the U.S. for extended periods without proper documentation, or failing to file income tax returns while living outside the U.S. Additionally, becoming a public charge or engaging in activities that threaten U.S. security can also result in revocation. The USCIS outlines these grounds in more detail.

How does one become a U.S. citizen after obtaining a Green Card?

After obtaining a Green Card, one may become a U.S. citizen through the process of naturalization. Generally, an individual must be a permanent resident for at least 5 years (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen), have continuous residence, be physically present in the U.S. for a specified period, demonstrate good moral character, pass English and civics tests, and take an oath of allegiance. The USCIS provides a complete list of requirements and steps for naturalization on their website.

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Discussion Comments

anon325171

My ex-wife married me to get residency in the U.S., and as soon as she got it, she divorced me. Is that legal?

momothree

@carrotisland- In addition, there is an immigration and non-immigration visa. With the immigration visa, the person is allowed to, after some time; apply for a green card during their stay in the United States.

The non-immigration visa mandates that the person fulfill their reason for being in the United States and then leave. They could be here for work, family matters, or any other temporary business.

chrisinbama

@carrotisland- There are a couple of differences in a green card and a visa. A visa gives someone the right to enter the U.S. A green card allows them permanent residency in the U.S.

There are a few different types of visas. There are business, fiancé, and tourist visas. A visa allows you a certain amount of time to be in the United States. It is only temporary.

The green card gives the individual a permanent home in the United States. However, the green card must be renewed after a period of ten years. It is a serious offense to be in the U.S. with an expired green card. Green card renewal is absolutely necessary.

CarrotIsland

I'm a little confused on the whole green card topic. What exactly is the difference in a green card and a visa?

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    • Couples involved in a green card marriage may undergo scrutiny to make sure the couple married for love and not to manipulate immigration laws.
      By: Ferrante Pietro
      Couples involved in a green card marriage may undergo scrutiny to make sure the couple married for love and not to manipulate immigration laws.
    • A green card marriage may occur between people who meet on a dating website.
      By: Julia Shepeleva
      A green card marriage may occur between people who meet on a dating website.