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What is US Permanent Residency (or a Green Card)?

Having permanent residency (or a green card) in the United States is a goal for thousands of visa holders, whether they wish to obtain American citizenship or even just live for a while in the US. But what exactly is permanent residency, and how can it be obtained? Here’s a quick introduction to the green card.

An Introduction

Permanent residency is a type of immigration status that means a person without US citizenship is allowed to live and work in the US for an extended period of time. Informally, permanent residency is referred to as “having a green card” because immigrants to the US are required to carry an identification card with them at all times. This card serves as proof that the immigrant is legally authorized to reside within the US, and also provides basic identification information. The card has a greenish color which lends permanent residency its nickname.

Obtaining a US Green Card

Obtaining permanent residency is a lengthy process that may require some time to complete. Eligibility for a green card is determined in a number of different ways; immigrants may be able to obtain a green card if they have family members or a job in the United States, or if they fulfill certain special categories. Foreign investors who hold an EB-5 visa are usually eligible to apply for a green card, adjusting their status from being a temporary visa holder to become a permanent resident.

In order to apply for a green card, immigrants who already have a visa for the United States must fill out and submit a special set of forms. In addition to these forms, immigrants must submit a handful of photographs, proof that they are legally residing within the United States, certain medical and vaccination records, as well as copies of government-issued identity documents, passport pages, and birth certificates. Certain special circumstances, such as criminal records or prior deportations, may require additional forms. This process can be extremely complex and may require the assistance of a professional to navigate.

Residing Permanently

Once all relevant materials have been submitted, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process the application. A background check may be conducted, or further information might be requested. If USCIS believes that an immigrant deserves permanent residency, they will issue a green card.

After receiving a green card, an immigrant has the right to live and work within the United States, as long as they fulfill certain requirements. These include paying taxes and residing within the US. Permanent residency may be lost if a crime is committed or if the immigrant leaves the United States for more than a year.

Next Steps

Many permanent residents eventually decide to become US citizens. After five years of residence in the US, green card holders can apply for citizenship (although those who are married to US citizens can apply after three years). Like the permanent residency process, the citizenship application process is also extremely complex and lengthy.

Those who wish to obtain visas, green cards, or even US citizenship are advised to contact a professional who can help them understand the necessary rules and regulations. Contact us today for more information.

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