Green Card: Things to Know

What is a Green Card?shutterstock_146169350

green cardA green card is the common term for a permanent resident card granted to United States immigrants. The color bears little significance, though the cards are, in fact, green. When going through the Green Card application procedure, it is important to know that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department refers to green cards by their legal names: Form I-551 or Permanent Residence Card.

Every year, the U.S. grants green cards to thousands of immigrants that meet very specific demographic criteria. Some of which are:

  • Familial relations to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Employment offer by a U.S. business
  • Having been in the U.S. for over a year as a refugee or asylee
  • Fitting into one of the several categories termed, “special immigrants”
  • Winning the visa lottery
  • Making a large investment in a U.S. business


What is the Green Card Application Procedure Like?


Getting the Card

You might have guessed that you don’t actually receive your physical green card once you’re approved for permanent residence.The green card application procedure can be different for everyone, especially when it comes to timing. In fact, depending on where and how you are an immigrant, the wait times can vary, though not by much. If you’re an immigrant in the U.S. adjusting to permanent resident status, you will be mailed a letter of approval and then receive your green card in the following weeks. Overseas immigrants will receive a temporary I-551 stamp in their passport to indicate that they are permanent residents and just like those changing status, green cards are mailed out not long after.


Though a green card provides an immigrant with the opportunity to have permanent residence in the United States as well as work and receive some governmental benefits, there are certain limitations that can cause you to lose your green card.

For one thing, if you commit a crime or any of the other acts that qualify someone for deportation under Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.), you run the risk of losing your green card and permanent resident status.

Additionally, having a green card does not mean that you are required to apply for citizenship as soon as possible. You can still retain your citizenship to another country while being a permanent resident of the U.S.

Green Card Expiration

The USCIS wants you to apply for a new residence card every ten years. No, your permanent resident status cannot expire, you do not have to go through the green card application procedure again, and you are not re-applying for that, but the physical card can and does expire. It sounds confusing, but the importance of this point is that U.S. law requires that all card holders carry an unexpired green card with them at all times. If you are in violation of this law, you may be in some trouble with the USCIS. If you, or someone you know has a need to replace or renew their existing green card, there are a number of options to consider. Click here to learn more about renewing or replacing your green card by completing your application online. If your situation is more complex, an online consultation with a licensed immigration attorney may be a better fit.

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The newsletters and articles found in this blog are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions.


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