Foreign nationals who want to come to the United States to live and work can apply for permanent resident status. A permanent resident card is the official government document verifying that the government has granted a non-U.S. citizen authority to reside in the United States permanently. The permanent resident card is referred to as a “green card” because the document itself was originally green. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 13.9 million people holding these documents were living in the United States as of 2019. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services processes most of these applications in the United States.
As a matter of public policy, the U.S. government has determined that it is in the best interest of the United States to allow certain foreign nationals to live and work permanently in this country. First, green cards are given to people with immediate relatives of U.S. citizens because having a relative in the United States acts as a built-in support system, both financially and emotionally.
The government has also decided that letting certain workers into the country is good for the U.S. economy and its workforce. Finally, the government has agreed to allow certain persons to obtain green cards based on humanitarian and other reasons. For example, certain refugees, asylees, and abuse and crime victims are eligible for green cards. This article discusses the different types of green cards available in the United States.
Why Is It Important to Have a Green Card in the United States?
Getting one of these cards provides many benefits and allows a person to live and work permanently in the United States.
If a foreign national wants to be granted U.S. citizenship, getting a green card is the first step in that process. If you have a green card and are married to a U.S. citizen, you can apply for U.S citizenship after having the card for three years. If you are not married to a U.S. citizen, there is a five-year waiting period before you can apply for U.S. citizenship.
Another benefit of having a green card is that the U.S. allows dual citizenship, so if it is allowed by their home country, they can keep both citizenships.
Cardholders can also sponsor immediate family members who apply for a green card.
Permanent residents enjoy protected status and the U.S. government cannot deport the individual even if U.S. immigration laws change. Green card holders, like anyone in the U.S. are also protected by the laws of the United States and the state and locality where they live.
Cardholders are also eligible to receive federal benefits such as social security disability, supplemental security income, Medicare, food stamps, and financial aid. They are also eligible for in-state tuition at some colleges and universities.
Cardholders can make political donations and volunteer for political candidates.
Cardholders have more job opportunities than persons who simply have a work visa. Unlike regular visa holders, green card holders can be unemployed, change jobs, obtain security clearances, or work for the federal government.
Who Needs This Document to Be in the United States?
Foreign nationals who want to obtain authorization to reside and work permanently in the United States must obtain a green card to do so. A green card is also required for anyone who wants to naturalize as a U.S. citizen. Both green card holders and U.S. citizens can:
- Get a driver’s license,
- Attend public schools, colleges, and universities, and
- Obtain social security numbers.
There are important differences between becoming a U.S. citizen and being a cardholder. For example, unlike cardholders, U.S. citizens can:
- Run for political office,
- Vote in local, state, and federal elections,
- Give U.S. citizenship to their children born outside of the United States,
- Apply for visas for other types of relatives to live in the United States,
- Live outside the U.S. for any amount of time without jeopardizing their U.S. citizenship (Permanent Residents must live in the U.S. to maintain their residency status!),
- Travel outside of the United States with a U.S. passport, and
- Apply for certain federal jobs.
If you have further questions or are interested in obtaining a green card, contact Jackson, Landrith & Kulesz, PC today.