For foreigners seeking to live and work in the United States permanently, acquiring a Green Card is the golden ticket. A Green Card, formally known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants a foreign national the right to permanently reside in the United States, offering opportunities for a fresh start, better living conditions, education opportunities, or joining family already residing in the states. A Green Card also paves the way to acquiring U.S. citizenship, should the cardholder choose to do so.
Understanding the Green Card
A Green Card is green in color, hence the name, and contains vital information about the holder, including their name, photo, fingerprint, card number, country of birth, date of birth, gender, “resident since” date, and card expiration date. It also contains numerous security features to prevent counterfeiting.
A Green Card holder is essentially a permanent resident of the United States; they get the right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. They receive health, educational, tax, and social benefits, similar to U.S. citizens. They can also sponsor their relatives to emigrate to the United States.
However, being a Green Card holder also comes with certain responsibilities. They must obey all U.S. laws at the federal, state, and local levels. They are required to file income tax returns and report their income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, if they are male and aged between 18 and 25, they must register with the Selective Service.
How to Obtain a Green Card
Getting a Green Card involves several steps. The most common way to obtain it is through a family member who is a U.S citizen or Green Card holder. Other avenues include employment-based Green Cards, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program — popularly known as the Green Card Lottery — and for refugees or asylees.
The process begins with a qualifying petition filed either by a family member or a prospective employer at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once approved, an immigrant visa number must be available. Depending on the category of the Green Card, there might be a long waiting period due to annual limits on the number of Green Cards issued.
After the visa number becomes available, the applicant can apply for an immigrant visa through consular processing or apply for adjustment of status if they are already in the United States.
Maintaining the Green Card Status
One of the key things to remember about the Green Card is that although it’s meant for permanent residency, its status can be lost. For instance, traveling abroad for extended periods or moving to another country can be interpreted as a failure to maintain a permanent residence in the U.S, leading to loss of this status.
Additionally, crime conviction can also lead to deportation, making it important for the cardholder to maintain a clean legal record. Cardholders are also required to renew their Green Cards every 10 years.
Acquiring U.S Citizenship
Having a Green Card is a prerequisite for naturalization or obtaining U.S. citizenship. After five years of being a Green Card holder (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), one can apply for U.S. citizenship.
In conclusion, getting a Green Card is a dream for many foreign nationals who see the United States as a land of opportunity. However, it’s important to understand all the rules, responsibilities, and privileges associated with it to maintain the card’s status and eventually choose to become a U.S. citizen.