Having a green card—also known as a Permanent Resident Card—allows foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States. How to apply for a green card depends on your individual situation. The following blog post is an overview of the most frequently asked questions about green cards.
What is a Green Card?
A green card is proof of being a lawful permanent resident (LPR), issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This visa must be renewed every ten (10) years, while conditional green cards need to be replaced after two (2) years.
Green card holders can live and work in the United States, as well as sponsor certain relatives for their own green cards. LPRs are eligible for citizenship/naturalization after three (3) or five (5) years.
What is USCIS?
USCIS is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and oversees legal immigration to the United States. USCIS approves green cards, travel permits, work permits, citizenship, and other immigration benefits.
What is a Conditional Green Card?
A conditional green card is valid for two (2) years with a designation of “CRI” on the physical card, referring to being a “conditional resident.” To receive a permanent green card, a conditional green card holder must file Form I-751 to “remove the conditions.” Conditional green cards are generally for an immigrant spouse who has been married to a U.S. citizen or LPR for less than two years.
How is Legal Permanent Residency Different from Citizenship?
While being either an LPR or a U.S. citizen allows you to live in work anywhere in the country, citizenship means you cannot be deported and is associated with certain rights, such as the right to vote. As we mentioned above, LPRs can apply for naturalization after three (3) or (5) years since obtaining their green cards.
What are Family-Based Green Cards?
Green card holders and U.S. citizens can sponsor "immediate relatives” to get a family-based green card. Immediate relatives include spouses, unmarried children, parents, siblings. Same-sex couples and widows/widowers of U.S. citizens may also qualify for family-based green cards.
What are Employment-Based Green Cards?
Employers in the United States can sponsor foreign workers to live and work in the U.S., contributing to the national economy and workforce. Employment-based visas are generally for immigrant workers with extraordinary abilities in the arts, education, sciences, business, or athletics; outstanding professors or researchers; multinational managers or executives; individuals with advanced degrees; skilled and unskilled workers; professionals; physicians; religious workers; and investors.
What are Humanitarian Green Cards?
The U.S. government also issues green cards to foreign nationals based on humanitarian reasons. Asylees and refugees can obtain a green card within one year after being granted asylum or refugee status. Human trafficking victims with a T nonimmigrant visa or crime victims with a U nonimmigrant visa can become LPRs after three years or when the criminal investigation is complete. Foreign nationals who are abused spouses, children, or parents may be eligible for a green card as a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petitioner.
What are Diversity Lottery Green Cards?
The State Department publishes an annual list of countries whose citizens can enter the lottery to get a diversity immigrant visa. The eligible countries have a low number of immigrants in the United States. The limit for the diversity lottery green card is 50,000 visas.
What are Green Cards Through Registry?
If a lawful or unlawful immigrant has lived continuously in the United States since before January 1, 1972, maintained “good moral character,” and has no criminal record with deportable crimes, he/she can apply for a “longtime resident” green card through the registry process.
Can I Work While Waiting for My Green Card?
If you have work authorization, you can work in the United States while you apply for a green card. If you do not have a valid work visa, you must obtain a permit by filing Form I-765 in order to work while you wait for your green card.
What is the Visa Bulletin?
The Visa Bulletin is issued monthly by the U.S. Department of State and shows which green card applications can move forward based on when the I-130 petition was originally filed. You start the green card process when you file Form I-130. Green cards are capped every year in certain categories, resulting in many backlogs.
What is a Biometric Screening?
After you submit your green card application, USCIS or your local U.S. embassy will schedule a biometrics appointment on your behalf. At the screening, a government employee collects your fingerprints, signature, and photograph, so the U.S. government can run your biometric information through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) database to look for any crimes on your criminal record that may disqualify you from obtaining LPR status.
Why Would My Green Card Application be Denied?
Making mistakes on your application, missing signatures, missing documents or information on forms, insufficient fees, and failure to demonstrate eligibility are all common reasons why a green card application is denied.
Do I Need to Hire an Immigration Attorney to Help Me Get a Green Card?
Since obtaining a green card can be a complex legal process, it is wise to hire an experienced immigration lawyer to help you complete all the necessary paperwork correctly, help you avoid making any mistakes on your application, make sure you meet all the deadlines and prepare you for your interview. Having an attorney on your side from start to finish can be the support you need to achieve the American dream.
If you are interested in applying for a green card in Phoenix, call Kanu & Associates, P.C. at (602) 353-7795 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Attorney Kanu has more than two decades of legal experience!