Green Cards

A United States Permanent Resident Card, known informally as a green card is an identification card attesting to the permanent resident status of an alien  in the United States of America.

Green card also refers to an immigration process of becoming a permanent resident. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits, which include permission to reside and take employment in the USA. The holder must maintain permanent resident status, and can be removed from the United States if certain conditions of this status are not met.

Green cards were formerly issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). During a re-organization process, that agency was absorbed into and replaced by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Shortly after that re-organization, BCIS was renamed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which still retains the responsibility for issuing green cards.

An alien with a green card application can obtain two important permits while the case is pending after a certain stage is passed in green card processing (filing of I-485). The first is a temporary work permit known as the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows the alien to take employment in the United States. The second is a temporary travel document, advance parole, which allows the alien to re-enter the United States. Both permits confer benefits that are independent of any existing status granted to the alien. For example, the alien might already have permission to work in the United States under an H-1B visa.

Information on how to get a Green Card

Lawful Permanent Residency, commonly known as “Green Card” status, is a way for people who are not citizens of the United States (immigrants) to live and work in the country while enjoying virtually all of the privileges of U.S. citizenship.

You must go through a multi-step process to get your “Green Card”. In most cases, USCIS must first approve an immigrant petition for you, usually filed by an employer or relative. Then, an immigrant visa number must be available to you, even if you are already in the United States. After that, if you are already in the United States, you may apply to adjust to permanent resident status (If you are outside the United States, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.)

Generally, there are five basic ways to obtain a “Green Card”:
  1. Sponsorship by a relative that resides in the United States who is either a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  2. Sponsorship by a United States employer through an offer of employment in the U.S.;
  3. Winning the “Green Card” Diversity Visa lottery;
  4. After being granted refugee status or through a grant of asylum due to persecution in one’s homeland; or
  5. Being a member of a special class of  people who the United States Government has decided to grant “Green Card” status to.

Can my relative sponsor me for a Green Card?

If you have a relative who is a U.S. Citizen or who has a “Green Card” you may be eligible to obtain permanent status in the United States.

Can I get a Green Card through my employer?

You or your relative may also be eligible to obtain a Green Card in the United States through an offer of permanent employment. A U.S. employer may sponsor a foreign-born employee for permanent residence. Typically, the employer must first demonstrate to the Department of Labor that there is no qualified U.S. worker available for the job for which an immigrant visa is being sought.

Is there any other way to get a Green Card?

A person who seeks protection in the U.S. on the grounds that he or she faces persecution in their homeland may enter this country as a refugee. In order to be admitted to the U.S. as a refugee, the person must prove that he or she has a “well-founded fear of persecution” on the basis of at least one of the following internationally recognized grounds: race; religion; membership in a social group; political opinion; or national origin.

If you wish to immigrate as a relative of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, you must obtain an immigrant visa number based on the preference category in which you fall.

People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by USCIS.  An immigrant visa number will become immediately available.