What You Need to Know About Green Cards

A Green Card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document given to individuals who have been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. 

There are many ways to get a green card, including:  

  • Investment

  • Family

  • Employment

  • Refugee/asylee status

   Typically, Permanent Resident Cards are valid for 10 years. After this ten-year period, Permanent Residents must renew their card through USCIS. This will ensure that the Permanent Resident can continue living and working legally in the United States. The renewal process is generally straightforward, and permanent residents do not usually encounter any problems renewing. In order to renew, they must file form I-90, which can be filed up to 6 months before the expiration date.

Prior to becoming a Permanent Resident, some immigrants must first go through a period of conditional residence. People who immigrate through marriage or the EB-5 Investment program will encounter this situation. Conditional resident status lasts for two years. Conditional residents must petition to remove the conditions within 90 days prior to expiry of their conditional Green Card. In order to do so, individuals who obtain residence through marriage must file form I-751 and investors must file form I-829. Once the forms have been filed and approved, conditional residents will become Permanent Residents.

Once you have obtained a Green Card, your spouse and unmarried children of any age also become eligible for permanent residence. However, these family categories have a quota set by Congress and applications may be subject to a waiting period. http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.

USCIS approves Green Cards on the assumption that the individual will be staying in the United States for good. While Green Card holders are allowed to leave and re-enter the country multiple times, taking trips outside of the country that last longer than six months will be viewed negatively upon re-entry. USCIS may assume that the individual no longer intends to make the U.S. their permanent home. In instances where Permanent Residents travel outside of the country for longer than six months, they will have the burden of proof to show that they do not intend to relinquish residency. Green Card holders traveling outside of the U.S. for longer than one year need to apply for a Re-entry Permit before leaving the country. If they do not, they may be considered to have abandoned their residence. Although not required, people traveling outside of the U.S. for more than six months but less than one year may also apply for a Re-entry Permit to ensure ease of re-entry.

Permanent Resident Card holders who have been permanent residents for 5 years (or 3 years if Green Card acquired through marriage) and meet certain residency requirements are eligible to apply for Naturalization. Naturalization is the process through which Permanent Residents can become U.S. citizens. Being an American citizen carries with it many advantages, such as the ability to travel to many countries without a visa, vote, and work for the government.

There are numerous ways to acquire permanent residence in the U.S., such as through family, investment, a job, or refugee/asylee status. If you need assistance in obtaining a Green Card through any of these methods or would like to apply for Naturalization, please contact the Law Offices of Vaughan de Kirby at (415) 221-2800. Our experienced immigration lawyers can get you one step closer to permanent U.S. residence.