Every year, millions of people apply for lawful permanent residence, and the U.S. government accepts only a small portion of applications. Despite the extensive requirements, paperwork, and potential wait times, individuals and businesses all around the world continue to petition because of the substantial benefits that come with lawful permanent residence.
To help you understand everything you need to know about green cards, we have compiled answers to the top 8 frequently asked questions. Keep in mind, however, that this information is general, and your specific situation will require a personalized assessment. When you’re ready to get started, contact Gambacorta Law so we can provide the counsel and representation you need.
1. What is lawful permanent residence?
Signified by a green card, lawful permanent residence is a type of immigration status that allows you to live and work permanently in the United States.
2. What is the difference between a green card and a visa?
A visa is what you obtain when you are coming to the United States from another country, and it is either in the immigrant category (for a permanent move) or nonimmigrant category (for a temporary stay).
A green card, on the other hand, is what signifies your lawful permanent residence once you have completed the immigration process. Individuals who are already in the U.S. lawfully won’t need to obtain a visa—they can simply adjust their status to permanent residence.
3. How do I qualify for a green card?
There are many different ways to qualify for a green card. The two most common paths are employment-based and family-based immigration, in which a U.S. employer or your family member (who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) sponsors you for a green card. You might also qualify for permanent residence through investment or a humanitarian category (e.g. asylum).
4. How long does it take to get a green card?
The timeline depends on your category. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, for example, don’t need to wait for a visa to become available. The adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents, on the other hand, will likely need to wait several years for their green cards.
5. Do I need to renew my green card?
Although a green card signifies permanent residence, you will need to replace it every ten years. The only way you can avoid renewing your status is to become a citizen through the naturalization process.
6. What is a conditional green card?
A conditional green card is valid for only two years, rather than the usual ten. At the end of the two years, the conditional green card holder must apply to remove the conditions on their permanent residence. If they still meet all requirements, USCIS will approve this application and send them a normal green card.
Generally, two categories of immigrants receive conditional green cards: investors and the newly married. The conditional green card gives USCIS a second opportunity to ensure the applicant has met all requirements and did not commit fraud.
7. Is it possible to lose my permanent residence?
Yes. You may be at risk of losing your green card if you commit certain crimes, or if USCIS believes you committed fraud during the immigration process. Another way to lose your status is if USCIS believes you have abandoned your permanent residence. Extended travel (i.e. longer than a year) outside the U.S. typically puts you at risk of appearing as though you have abandoned your permanent residence.
When you obtain your green card, your attorney should explain how to protect your status and avoid deportation.
8. When can I become a U.S. citizen?
One of the greatest benefits of lawful permanent residence is the path to citizenship, which typically becomes available once you have had a green card for five years. There are many other requirements to meet, however, and the naturalization process involves several steps. Professional guidance will greatly improve your ability to successfully navigate this process.
Get Started on Your Immigration Journey Today
Now more than ever, the obstacles between you and your immigration goals may seem overwhelming. Let our team at Gambacorta Law reduce the stress of this process and put our years of experience to work for your case. We can help you overcome legal hurdles, find the most efficient way forward, and inform you regarding your rights and options every step of the way.