What is a Green Card?

Green Card for USA
What is a Green Card

If you’ve ever looked into US immigration, you might have asked yourself, what is a Green Card? It’s a term thrown around a lot in relation to living in the US, so it’s worth understanding what it is and what it gets you as an immigrant.

Luckily, you’ll find all that and more in this article. We’ll answer the question, what is a Green Card, and discuss how you can get one.

What is a Green Card?

A United States Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551), formerly Alien Registration Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151), is an identification card attesting to the permanent resident status of an alien in the United States.

It is known informally as a Green Card because it was green from 1946 until 1964, and it reverted to that color on May 11, 2010. While this isn’t its official name, it’s commonly used by everyone from immigrants to the US State Department.

Holding a Green Card means you’re a lawful permanent resident (LPR). As the name suggests, this means you can live permanently in the US and enjoy all the benefits this brings. It’s not the same as full citizenship, but we’ll discuss that in more detail below.

Green Cards were formerly issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135) dismantled INS and separated the former agency into three components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The first, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles applications for immigration benefits. Two other agencies were created to oversee the INS’s former functions of immigration enforcement: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), respectively.

How to Get a Green Card

We won’t go into too much detail on how to get a Green Card, as we have plenty of other information on our website about this. Generally, there are 3 main routes to becoming an LPR.

The first is through employment. In short, you apply for a job in America, and your employer sponsors you for your Green Card. This only really works for specialist jobs that can’t be filled by American citizens.

The second is through family contacts, who can either be LPRs or American citizens. You must be fairly closely related for them to sponsor you. Alternatively, people marrying American citizens can apply for a Green Card via marriage.

Finally, there’s the Green Card Lottery. This option means you don’t need any existing connections in the country, and you have quite a bit more freedom when you get to America. The main application criteria is that you’re from a country with historically low rates of immigration to the US.

What is a Green Card: Benefits

The most important thing a Green Card offers LPRs is the right to work in the US. You can get temporary work permits, but a Green Card means you can theoretically take any job rather than just seasonal or temporary work.

In some cases, you might be tied to a particular job, as this might be the reason you were granted a Green Card. However, in other situations, you can apply for and work any job in the country.

A Green Card also lets you travel in and out of the country without having to apply for visas every time. You can even leave the country for nearly 12 months. Specifically, you must return within 12 months of your departure date. Compared to a temporary visa, this is quite a big benefit.

You can also receive state and education assistance. For example, Green Card holders can receive resident tuition rates at certain colleges and universities, which can be much cheaper than the rates paid by temporary immigrants.

While a Green Card doesn’t completely protect you from deportation, it does make it much harder. You won’t be removed from America due to changes in the law, and your residency doesn’t expire. However, you can be deported if you commit a serious crime, so just make sure you don’t do that!

Finally, you can be part of the American political process. However, you can’t vote yet, but you can volunteer for political campaigns and donate to them.

Permanent residents of the United States who are eighteen years of age or older must carry their Green Card at all times. Failing to do so is a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, carrying the possibility of a fine of up to $100.

What is a Green Card: Path to Citizenship

As mentioned, a Green Card doesn’t mean you’re a full American citizen. However, it’s the first step on the journey for foreign nationals. Although your LPR status never expires, you must renew your Green Card every 10 years.

But in that time, you can begin the citizenship application process. In fact, you can apply after 3 or 5 years, depending on how you became an LPR. The citizenship process can be quite long, but it does offer numerous benefits. The most important, perhaps, is the right to vote in elections.

Final Thoughts on What is a Green Card?

Hopefully, this should answer the question, what is a Green Card? Obtaining one is easiest through the Green Card Lottery, which you can apply for now. Make sure you contact us for any help you might need when filling out your application.

US Green Card Office is full service one-stop immigration office. We provide support 24/7 365 days a year, and our trained staff can assist you in 20 different languages. Just contact us on our live chat system or call us directly on +1 866 569 50 10

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