A green card is also called a permanent resident card. It is an important step on the road toward becoming a United States citizen and bestows permanent resident status on an alien in the United States. Upon receiving a green card, the alien falls under the category of Lawful Permanent Resident or LPR. If you follow the rules and maintain your green card for five years, you become eligible to apply for American citizenship, unless you are married to an American citizen, in which case you can apply after 3 years as a green card holder.
Some other benefits of having a green card include: the ability to work legally in the United States without a visa, eligibility for education benefits, eligibility for healthcare benefits, and the ability to travel into and out of the United States with fewer restrictions. However, a green card holder must meet certain conditions. For example, he or she cannot stay outside the United States for more than 12 months in a row.
If you are seeking to obtain a green card, or have questions about the process, contact an experienced Maryland Green Card Lawyer Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. We serve clients throughout Maryland and Washington, DC.
There are a number of additional ways to get a green card, such as:
- Sponsorship through an employer for a work visa
- Sponsorship by a family member who is a Lawful Permanent Resident or United States citizen
- Diversity lottery awarded to applicants who are residents of countries that have lower immigration rates to the U.S.
After a certain stage in the green card application process, you may also obtain a short-term work permit known as an Employment Authorization Document. Further, a short-term travel permit called “advance parole” can be obtained that allows you to travel abroad and return to the United States.The Process for Obtaining a Green Card
First, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve an immigrant petition by someone who is qualified to sponsor you for a green card. This may be an immediate relative who is a United States citizen, or an employer. U.S. citizens can sponsor the following people to get their green cards: spouses (husbands or wives) and their unmarried children who are under the age of 21, the citizen’s unmarried children who are over the age of 21, the citizen’s married sons and daughters, or when a citizen is over 21, his or her sisters and brothers.
Next, unless you are an immediate relative of the person that sponsored you, you must wait to see if an “immigrant visa number” is available. A quota sets the number of immigrant visa numbers; there are also limits to the number of visas issued to different countries. After an immigrant visa number is made available, you must apply with USCIS and ask them to change your present status to permanent resident status or apply for an immigrant visa at the closest U.S. consulate before entering the United States. The USCIS may conduct a background check. Sometimes, in the case of a U.S. citizen’s marriage to a foreign national, the pair will be interviewed by USCIS.
An alternative method of obtaining a green card is consular processing for applicants outside the United States. These applicants can make an appointment at the United States embassy in his or her country. There, a consular officer can determine whether or not to approve an immigrant visa, which allows such applicants to travel to the United States and receive a permanent resident card at the port of entry.
One important caveat to this process is that green card holders who marry or are married to non-United States citizens must wait until their priority date becomes current before bringing their spouses and minor children to the United States. The foreign spouse must get an immigrant visa approved, and the amount of time it may take could be months or years. During that time, the foreign spouse cannot be in the United States with the green card holder unless she or he gets a different kind of visa.
Finally, note that you may also qualify for a green card if you are here on a specific type of investor visa.
For many people, obtaining a green card is an important step on the path towards citizenship that requires that you navigate the detailed immigration laws of the United States. We recommend that you contact an experienced Maryland Green Card Lawyer at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC so that we can help you in this important, but sometimes complicated process. Call us at (301) 519-2801, or submit our online contact form today.