A Green Card is basically a residency card for the United States and it serves the purpose of proving one’s identification of an individual who is residing in the US on a permanent basis but is still not a resident.
Here are the most important facts about Green Cards, including how to get one.
What is a Green Card?
Officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, a US Green Card is legal proof of an immigrant’s right to live and work in the USA. If you have a Green Card, you’re known as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). It’s the closest you can be to a full US citizen.
Importantly, it gives the cardholder almost all the same rights as a US citizen, which is the best thing about it. For example, a Green Card holder can:
- Own property
- Be protected by US law
- Open a bank account, take out loans, etc.
- Receive Social Security benefits
- Start you on your path to citizenship
The main things you can’t do with a Green Card are vote, run for office, and sponsor family members to obtain their own Green Card.
The reason why this residency card is known as a Green Card is that it’s green. The color of this card has changed several times, but since 2005 this card has been prominently in green color.
Some of the details that are captured in this card are as follows:
- Full name of the individual
- Photograph of the cardholder
- Other crucial information of the cardholder
What to do with a Green Card
There are some rules that Green Card holders should follow when they are in possession of it. If a person is not a citizen and is residing in the US using a Green Card, they must always carry it with them. If not, it can lead to difficulties if stopped by police.
Similarly, cardholders must bring them to job interviews so the employer can confirm their legal right to work in the USA. When asking, what is a Green Card, the answer for most cardholders is a right to work. Therefore, it’s vital that you bring it to your job.
The main reason for holding a green card at all times is because of safety in the US. Before 9/11 this rule was not enforced, but since the increase in security threats, the government has established this rule where even if a person travels domestically, they must have their Green Card with them. Previously, an individual only had to carry it when coming back from a foreign trip.
How Do You Get a Green Card?
To get a Green Card, you must meet certain eligibility criteria. The process can be very long depending on why you’re applying and your country of origin, among other factors.
Generally, there are two main groups that apply:
One way of getting a Green Card is through employment. Generally, it only applies to specialized roles that have a lack of applicants already in the US. Your potential employer is involved in the application process, as they act as your sponsor.
This is arguably the quickest way to get a Green Card through the traditional methods. You can read more about work-releated visa and who qualifies for a Work Permit in the United States.
The other common method for getting a Green Card is via family sponsorship. It only applies to immediate family and requires them to be full US citizens. Specifically, you’re only eligible if you’re a spouse, child, or parent of a US citizen.
Other relatives can apply through the family preference program, but this isn’t always guaranteed. Getting a Green Card through family is obviously less common than through work because it relies on existing connections with the country.
How Do You Get a Green Card if These Don’t Apply?
If neither of these options apply to you, there are two more that might work. However, these are a bit more difficult because of the starting requirements.
If you invest at least $500,000 into the American economy and create jobs as part of it, you automatically become eligible for a Green Card. Of course, this option means you must have a lot of money available, but essentially involves buying a pathway to citizenship.
Green Card Lottery
By far the easiest option is the Green Card Lottery. Also known as the Diversity Visa Program, you enter a yearly draw to win a Green Card without any of the other requirements being in place.
Your country must be on the eligible list. For this, it must have sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the previous 5 years. As such, the list changes regularly. Always check if your country is on the list before applying.
What is a Green Card: Important Facts
Along with knowing which category best applies to you, there are some important things you must consider about Green Cards. These include:
Abiding by the Law
This is an obvious one, but Green Card holders must abide by American law. Failing to do so can lead to you losing your Green Card, which in turn can mean deportation. At best, you might be sent to a US prison, although this in itself isn’t ideal.
A Green Card lasts for 10 years. This doesn’t mean you lose your status, but, like most passports, you need to get a new copy of the card. You must do this 6 months before its expiry date.
Pathway to Citizenship
Providing you continue to meet the criteria, you can apply for US citizenship after 5 years. Doing so brings a lot of benefits, as it puts you on the same level as people born in the country. Of course, it’s not a simple process, and isn’t always guaranteed. Even so, it’s worth applying for if you plan to stay in the US long term.
How Do You Get a Green Card? Let Us Help!
Unless you have a job lined up or family in the country, the easiest way to get a Green Card is via the Electronic Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Luckily, US Green Card Office is a team of experts in just this. So, contact us for help to see if you’re eligible and to guide you through your application.