US Green Card

What Is A "Green Card?"

A permanent resident card, often referred to as a "green card," gives an individual the legal right to live and work within the borders of the United States permanently. Because the individual in question is not a natural-born citizen, they are provided with a card that provides their permanent status. There are several ways to obtain this coveted document, each of which has its own process attached to it.


US Green Card Eligibility

There are several ways in which you make qualify to receive a green card. It should be noted that there is an application process and you may need to provide special documentation to meet the requirements to receive a green card. To start, you must qualify within one of the special categories established via the Immigration and Nationality Act. You also need to get your immigrant petition approved and be eligible for general admission to the United States; health-related problems and a criminal background could prove to be a permanent roadblock in this process. It should be noted that there not an unlimited number of green cards available for immigrants; particularly when it comes to work-related visas, Congress has set a limit on the number of green cards that can be issued annually based on each INA category.

Categories within the INA include:

  • Family: If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, then you may not need to wait for a green card slot to become available. Parents, spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens can get an immediate green card, as long as they meet the basic requirements. However, adult children (over 21), spouses and children of permanent residents, married children and siblings of U.S. citizens and others may need to wait for a green card slot to become available.
  • Potential for employment: Those applying for permanent residence because of employment potential may receive an immigrant visa as a slot becomes available, with priority given to researchers and college-level educators, as well as other individuals with "extraordinary abilities," according to the USCIS. Second preference is given to degreed individuals, then skilled workers, followed by immigrants with special designations (including religious) and finally those with employment creation purposes.

Also note that if you gained admittance to the U.S. as a refugee or as the child or spouse of a refugee, you have a year to apply for permanent residence. The same applies if you were offered asylum.

Job Offer Specifics

If you've been offered a green card through the promise of gainful employment, then there are some special requirements and considerations for you to undertake. To start, note that certain job types stipulate a provision that there are not enough existing workers in the U.S. to meet the employment demand for that particular position. Priority is also given to those workers with unique abilities in a specific employment situation.

You may be eligible to become a permanent resident if you receive an offer of permanent employment in the U.S. However, keep in mind that your employer must submit the proper labor paperwork and file an "Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker" document on your behalf.

Renew Your Green Card

Once you've received a green card to live in the United States, it is your responsibility to renew it every ten years. The time to start the process is when you get within six months of expiration of your green card.

Don't wait until the last minute to file for renewal as the process can take six to eight weeks or more; in fact, if you are required to submit extra documentation, you may be waiting even longer and may enter a gray area in which your old card has expired and you haven't yet been approved for a new one. This can cause immigration issues, depending on your specific situation. Avoid the messy red tape by starting the process well ahead of when your old card will expire.

If your current status is conditional, then you need to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence to renew your status or move forward in the process of obtaining permanent resident status.

If you are currently out of the country, and your card expires, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or USCIS office for assistance. If you are out of the country, but plan to return before the card expires, then you can wait to start the process when you return to the U.S. (as long as you have six months of lead time).

Denial of Green Card

Being denied a green card can be devastating, but you may have the right to appeal. You will receive a letter stating the reason for the denial and if the reason is negative (such as, for example, a criminal history in your home country), you cannot appeal the decision. However, if the reason was technical in nature, you may ask to have your case reconsidered or reexamined by filing a motion to this effect. You must be able to show that the reason for the denial is not in accordance with current immigration law or was based on incorrect information. Please note that this won't be effective if you don't have evidence to back up your appeal.