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What is a Green Card?
A Green Card is the nick-name given to the United States Permanent Resident Card due to its distinctive green hue. The document is issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This document is an essential immigration document and in many cases is a necessary identification document for foreign citizens who reside in the United States.
What Is a Green Card Holder?
A Green Card holder is a Permanent Resident of the United States. Permanent Residents have the right to live, work, study and travel freely anywhere in the United States of America as long as they maintain certain eligibility requirements.
As long as a Permanent Resident does not leave the US for an extended period of time or commits any crimes there is no reason for their status to be revoked.
What Is a Green Card Used for?
Immigrants to the United States may at one point or another need to supply proof of their legal presence in the country, which is the primary purpose of the Green Card.
The Green Card is effectively an identification card for immigrants in the United States and includes their names, identification numbers and other biographic data that uniquely identifies them as being permanent residents.
The Green Card is also necessary for returning to the United States from travelling abroad. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are likely to ask to see the card when an immigrant returns to America.
Different Ways to Get a Green Card
There are a few different ways to get a Green Card, here are some of the more popular options:
Green Card Lottery
The Green Card Lottery is one of the most popular options for getting a Green Card because of the rather limited requirements for entry into the drawing.
The entry period begins in the autumn of every year in the United States and takes place entirely online. Winners are selected the following spring and advanced to the next step in the process where they can begin to adjust status to Permanent Resident.
There are only two general requirements for entry into the Green Card Lottery. Entrants must meet an education requirement and a location requirement.
Green Card Through Family
Some immigrants already have family within the United States. Certain family members who are already citizens or Permanent Residents of the US can sponsor immigrant relatives like parents, spouses or children to come to the US.
Some of these visas are always current and sometimes they have very long backlogs, especially for Permanent Residents.
How Do I Apply for a Green Card?
Applying for a Green Card normally involves two steps: the petition and the adjustment of status.
The petition is the part of the process where an immigrant asks to come to the United States. With the Green Card Lottery this is the initial application that is completed online. In other immigration classes, the petition is completed by someone already in America who is sponsoring the immigrant.
The adjustment of status is the part of the application where the immigrant asks for Permanent Residency and is completed by the immigrant. Normally, this part is completed after the petition has been accepted, but in some cases (as is the case with consular processing) the petition and adjustment of status are filed together.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?
The amount of time that it takes to get a Green Card varies widely depending upon which immigrant classification a person decides to use.
If you win the Green Card Lottery it only takes about two years to get a green card and immigrate to the United States. This is one of the quickest paths to United States Permanent Residency.
Green Cards through either work or family can take significantly longer and are sometimes backlogged to decades! An immediately apparent exception to this is a green card based on the sponsorship of an immediate relative. These visas can bring immigrants to America's shores in as quickly as a year or two, although that is somewhat rare.