U.S. Residency Green Card Information

What is a green card?

A green card holder is the same thing as being a legal permanent resident of the United States. The terms “green card” and “permanent resident” are used interchangeably. The commonly used term “green card” is slang.

While valid green card status allows the holder to permanently live in United States, it does not equate to naturalization. Green card holders are not U.S. citizens.

However, eligible green card holders may later apply for naturalization, which leads to full U.S. citizenship.Green card holders share some overlapping privileges with U.S. citizens. For instance, legal green card holders are able to live and work in the U.S. They can also travel and re-enter the country legally. Green card holders can even petition for some other close family members to become green card holders.

However, there are time restraints placed on how long green card holders are allowed to stay out of the country. If they make their home elsewhere, they will lose their green card status. There are specific laws that govern green card holders who leave the U.S. for a period of time. Those laws primarily concern intent to permanently reside in the U.S. and time spent outside of the U.S.

In general, green card holders who stay out of the U.S. for more than 6 months but less than 1 year are presumed to have abandoned their green card status. When trying to return to the U.S. after having been gone between 6 months and 1 year, those green card holders should have a chance to prove that they have not abandoned the U.S. as their permanent residence. Green card holders that stay out of the U.S. for more than 1 year at a time encounter worse problems. Their green card becomes automatically void and they can be put into deportation proceedings even if they are allowed back into the United States. Green card holders who do not abandon the U.S. as their primary residence and who stay out of the U.S. for less than 6 months at a time generally do not encounter difficulties upon reentering the U.S.

However, arrests and/or convictions even if those were properly disclosed to the U.S. government during the immigration process can nevertheless present difficulties to the green card holder who leaves the U.S. and then tries to legally reenter. Those green card holders should travel with certified copies of their conviction or related records. They should not leave the U.S. without first obtaining the advice of their immigration attorney.

As mentioned, a green card holder can face deportation under some circumstances. However, a foreign individual that has completed the naturalization process and become a U.S. citizen cannot be legally deported. Naturalized citizens have the same rights, legal protections, and privileges as persons born in the U.S. For example, they can legally vote in federal, state, and local elections.

There are some exceptions to that. A person may be “denaturalized” for lying about important facts in their background that if known to the U.S. government would have made that person ineligible for immigration to begin with. A denaturalized person can then be deported. Those situations are relatively rare and they usually occur after many years of court proceedings.

Some green card holders may apply for a “reentry permit” that allows them to stay out of the U.S. for up to two years at a time without losing their green card status. Green card holders with a reentry permit are still required to continue to maintain the intention to permanently reside in the U.S. and to resume living there in the future.

The reentry permit must be applied for while the green card holder is still in the U.S. The required fingerprinting must also occur in the U.S. Then the applicant can remain in the U.S. for the reentry permit to be issued to them and leave. Or instead they can choose to leave the U.S. after filing the reentry permit application and undergoing fingerprinting, and elect to receive their reentry permit abroad.

Reentry permits can be renewed a limited number of times. The reentry permit application is filed using immigration form I-131.

Getting a U.S. Green Card

The first step to acquiring a green card is to check and make sure that an individual is eligible. An individual may be eligible through a number of different pathways. There are certain positions for green cards available for individuals who have family members who are legal permanent residents. Several categories of potential jobs can offer an individual a green card. In addition, individuals can be brought into the United States under a special accommodation visa or through the refugee process. An individual also must show that they will not become a public charge.

Then, the individual must go through the adjustment of status process. They must file an immigration petition and file form I-485. After the process of filing that form, a green card applicant must set up an appointment with an Application Support Center and a potential follow-up interview and request for further documents. Then, the application process is complete, and an individual must wait for a decision on his or her status.

Green Card Interview Questions

In the process of applying for a green card, an individual will almost always have to go through an interview. The interview is set up to assess an individual’s eligibility to receive a green card. The primary purpose of the interview is to ensure that an individual is being truthful about the basis for their eligibility and in their responses to the many questions were asked of them on their green card application forms. Therefore, the questions that will be asked pertain to the basis for the application and to the individual’s history and background.

An experienced immigration law attorney should help prepare you for the interview portion of the immigration process. Your interview will take place either in the United States, for example in San Diego, or at the appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad, depending on where you filed and live and your eligibility category.

Green Card Medical Exam

All foreign nationals who apply for a green card must complete and pass a required medical examination before their green card cases can be approved. A government-approved physician must perform your medical exam.

If foreign nationals are applying for their greens cards from outside of the United States then there often are just one or two designated doctors that are authorized to perform the medical exam to be provided to the U.S. Consulate.  If foreign nationals are applying for Adjustment of Status in the U.S. then there are more approved doctors for you to choose from.

The doctor will use Form I-693 to complete your medical examination. You should be provided with a copy of your completed medical examination form. However, the doctor will give you the original I-693 form in a sealed envelope that must remain sealed and submitted to the government that way.

Green Card Renewal Fee

The green card renewal fee currently is a total of $540 as of 2018. This fee is broken into two parts. The first is a $455 application fee in order to process the green card application. There is also an $85 biometrics fee that is charged to most applicants. The biometrics fee is for photographing and fingerprinting the green card holder.

This process is used to renew an expiring or expired green card for 10 years. The I-90 form is used to renew your green card. The I-90 green card renewal application can be mailed or submitted electronically, with proper supporting evidence.

What to do if lost Green Card

Individuals who have lost their green card or have had it stolen should attempt to remedy the problem as quickly as possible. They should file USCIS form I-90 along with the application fee, a government-issued photo ID, and a copy of their lost or stolen green card if possible. An individual then may need to wait 8-10 months or so in order to receive a replacement.