Are you hoping to become a lawful permanent resident? We are here to help you understand this status and how to obtain it. Here are the answers to the top 10 FAQs about green cards.
1. What is a green card?
A green card is a document issued to lawful permanent residents (commonly called green card holders). Lawful permanent residents can live and work permanently in the United States.
2. How long does it take to get a green card?
This depends on the specific path you take. For example, the U.S. government provides an unlimited number of green cards to the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, so these individuals will not be placed onto a waiting list before obtaining their green cards. Other family-based and employment-based immigrants, however, are organized into preference categories. The lower the number, the higher your priority.
Due to the differences amongst these categories, the green card application process can take anywhere from seven months to several years.
3. What’s the difference between a green card and a visa?
A green card is the document you receive after either:
- Coming to the United States on an immigrant visa; or
- Adjusting your status to lawful permanent residence if you’re already in the United States.
A visa, on the other hand, is the authorization most foreign citizens need to travel (either temporarily or permanently) to the United States. There are many different types of visas, but there are only two types of green cards: a regular green card and a conditional green card.
4. What is a conditional green card?
A conditional green card signifies conditional permanent residence, which is only valid for two years. Once these two years pass, the individual must apply to remove the conditions on their permanent residence. If they qualify, they will receive a regular green card.
USCIS generally gives conditional green cards to:
- Investors; and
- Individuals who have been married to their sponsor for less than two years.
Investors need to meet certain requirements related to capital and job creation, while the beneficiaries of marriage or fiancé visas need to have entered into a bona fide marriage. USCIS issues conditional green cards to these individuals so an adjudicating officer can reevaluate their eligibility (i.e. assess the results of investment or evaluate a couple for evidence of marriage fraud).
5. Can a green card be revoked upon divorce?
If you obtained your green card through your spouse, divorce may threaten your permanent residence. It could suggest to USCIS that your marriage was fraudulent (i.e. you married simply to obtain a green card).
Your green card wouldn’t be automatically revoked upon divorce, but you may have trouble removing conditions on permanent residence. You will need to provide substantial evidence that your marriage was bona fide, rather than simply a way to obtain a green card.
6. How long can you be out of the country on a green card?
Although green cards allow greater flexibility for international travel than nonimmigrant visas, extended travel abroad can threaten your lawful permanent residence. If USCIS believes you did not or do not intend to make a permanent home in the U.S., they can decide you have abandoned your permanent residence and subsequently prevent you from reentering the United States.
Unfortunately, there is no hard rule for the amount of time you can leave the United States without losing your permanent residence. USCIS advises green card holders to return to the U.S. within a year, but many recommend returning within six months because USCIS may assess other factors to determine whether you have abandoned your status. These factors include U.S. bank accounts, employment, mailing address, family ties, and more.
7. How can I get a green card?
There are two primary ways to obtain a green card, and your path will depend on your location. If you are already in the U.S. (lawfully), you can adjust your status to lawful permanent residence without leaving the country. If you are outside the U.S., you will need to first obtain an immigrant visa through consular processing. Once you obtain the visa, you can go to a U.S. port of entry. If the CBP officer lets you into the United States, you should receive your green card in the mail.
Most people obtain green cards through family members or U.S. employers. However, some individuals can self-petition (file without a sponsor). Self-petitioners include investors, victims of crime, asylum seekers, certain special immigrants, and more.
8. Do green cards expire?
Yes. You will need to replace your green card every ten years.
9. Can my green card be revoked?
Yes. Typically, USCIS will revoke a person’s green card if they commit fraud, a certain type of crime, or an immigration violation. A green card can even be revoked if the permanent resident fails to inform USCIS of their change of address.
10. Can I get a green card right now?
As of August of 2020, obtaining a green card is challenging, to say the least. If you are out of the country, you will likely be unable to obtain an immigrant visa due to the immigration ban in effect until the end of 2020.
Some, however, are exempt from the ban. Consult a legal professional for more information about the current state of immigration and your options.
Come to Our Firm for Assistance
The above answers are intended as general information. If you need personalized recommendations and information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team at Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. We can guide you through the turbulence of the immigration system, helping you achieve your goals as efficiently and painlessly as possible.