A Green card is a commonly used name for a Permanent Resident Card, formerly called an Alien Registration Card. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a lawful permanent resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits.
When can Green Card holders apply for U.S. Citizenship?
A lawful permanent resident can then apply for U.S. Citizenship or Naturalization after 5 years of residency. This period is shortened to 3 years if the individual is married to a U.S. citizen. It is even quicker if the individual is in the United States Armed Services. Lawful Permanent Residents may submit their applications for naturalization as early as 90 days before meeting the residency requirement.
How long is a Green Card valid?
Green card status is essentially valid for one's lifetime, even though the card itself must be renewed every 10 years.
What are the benefits of applying for a Green Card?
Although citizens have more rights than permanent residents, green card holders do indeed receive many benefits as well. Here are just several:
- Leave/enter the United States at will – Travel outside of the United States without fear or risk of being denied entry by an Immigration Official at a port of entry. There is also no need to complete the I-94 form or worry about expiration of authorized stay, though you may only leave for up to 6 months on any one trip.
- Work for any company – As long as the company is located in the U.S., you can work for any organization without need for employer sponsorship
- Start your own business or corporation – As long as you’re within the category of work-related benefits, you have the right to start your own corporation.
- Own your own property or car – Not only can you legally own property in the U.S. but you are also entitled to get a mortgage for home purchase.
- Social security benefits – As long as you worked for 10 years prior to retiring, you have social security benefits after retirement.
- The right to apply for government-sponsored financial aid – If you’re interested in pursuing higher education here in the U.S., you have the right to apply for financial aid.
- Receive professional licenses – You are entitled to apply for licenses like real estate agent or insurance agent licenses.
- Sponsor your spouse and unmarried minor children under 21 years – If you still have family abroad, you can sponsor them to obtain permanent resident status.
Am I eligible for public benefit programs with a Green Card?
The majority of federal benefits programs all require that you maintain lawful permanent resident status for 5 years prior to applying. This applies to the following public benefit programs:
- Social Security Income (SSI) for low-income disabled children and adults
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for children under 18 (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Section 8
What are the obligations and limitations of having a Green Card?
While there are many benefits of getting a green card, it is also important that you do the following:
- File a United States Resident Tax Return (Federal Form 1040) and to also file for any other applicable state, city, or local taxes
- Register for Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 19 to 25.
There are also limitations to having a Green Card, like the following:
- Green card holders are not allowed to claim whether in writing or verbally, even if in a casual context, that they are a United States Citizen. It is considered extremely serious to claim citizenship when one is not a citizen and, if convicted, you may be stripped of your green card and can be deported from the United States.
- Green card holders don’t have the right to participate in federal elections is a right ascribed only to citizens. Green card holders (LPRs) may NEVER vote during Presidential elections. Once again, you could lose your green card and/or be subject to removal from the United States.
There is no doubt that obtaining a green card provides individuals with extraordinary benefits. Importantly, having a green card is a privilege and not a right. It can be removed if certain conditions are not met or if a person commits certain crimes. In addition, there are important maintenance requirements (e.g. alerting USCIS within 10 days if you change your address, being vigilant about length of stays outside of the United States, etc.).
At the Shulman Law Group, LLC, our immigration lawyers can solve your immigration concerns by providing you with detailed and comprehensive explanations about the permanent resident process so that you will be fully knowledgeable about all of the benefits of the green card, as well as compliant with all of the requirements.
With our thorough approach, we help our clients successfully maintain their lawful permanent resident status and to follow the natural course of applying for citizenship. As one of the best immigration law firms in NJ and in the United States, we have also earned a national reputation for successfully assisting green card holders who, for a myriad of reasons, have been in jeopardy of losing their lawful permanent resident status. Located in Paterson, NJ, contact our immigration law firm now and talk to one of our experienced attorneys.