Understanding Green Cards: A Brief Q&A on Permanent Residence in the United States

Immigration can be a complicated process, and every stipulation should be followed to ensure successful residency. Below we’ve addressed some of the more common questions and concerns regarding green cards in the United States:

Q: What exactly is a green card?

A: A green card is a vernacular legal term. It represents the permanent resident alien status one has under Immigration laws. The physical card, which a permanent resident has, is not even green any more. It used to be (light) green. Permanent resident alien status gives the immigrants the right to live and work in the United States. Essentially, a green card is a document that allows you to stay for an extended period of time. Unlike a non-immigrant visa, a green card gives you the option to remain in the country on a permanent basis, assuming you follow certain guidelines.

Q: How do you apply for a green card?

A: Green card can be obtained primarily two ways: through family or through an employer. Most of the time, a person will apply for a green card when their employer sponsors them. You can also be sponsored by a family member who is a US citizen. Applying for a visa, with or without sponsorship, occurs at the US Embassy or consulate in your home country. Of course there are laws that allow one to file for green card while present in the US as well. See link to Adjustment of Status here.

Q: Do I have the same rights as a US citizen?

A: It depends. Your civil rights are the same. The benefits and rights of holding a green card are vast. Not only are you free to work and live in the US, but you can also travel anywhere within and outside of the country, provided you will return within six months. As a green card holder, you can now sponsor qualified relatives to enter the country, and after five years you can apply to become a permanent citizen.  For certain other benefits such as obtaining social security, government insurance coverage, and tax benefits conditions apply.

Q: Why not just keep my green card instead of obtaining citizenship?

A: While this is an option, there are a few benefits that a US citizen enjoys that are not made available to those with an immigrant visa. Primarily, you cannot vote in any elections. If you fail to comply with informing the government of any address changes or you commit any crimes, you could risk losing your ability to remain in the country. You may have to wait several years before being offered the benefits listed above.

Q: Can I be deported if I have a green card?

A: Unfortunately, yes. Until you are a legal citizen of the United States, there are ways for your green card to be revoked. Typically, these involve lying to obtain immigration benefits, committing acts of terror or committing a crime, but you can also be deported if you fail to comply with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services standards, which include informing them if you have a change of address.

If you have additional questions regarding immigrating to the United States and need further guidance, please contact Ahluwalia Law, P.C. today. We are well versed in immigration law and can help you through the process.