Remember when COVID hit the world, and bam, everything came straight to a halt? Grass started growing in train stations, metros and streets were deserted, and airplanes that once carried travelers all around this big blue planet were only bringing people back home who were terrified that the world was coming to an end. Many people who were in the queue to get a green card for the US were now stranded without one.
However, we are all glad that things are back to normal again. We can now think of immigration and travel once again. But I bet some of us have forgotten the dos and don’ts of travel and related formalities. For instance, do you know how to get a green card? Or how long does it take to get a green card? How to renew a green card?
We are here to answer all your questions related to it.
What Is A Green Card?
A Green Card is a document that you need to live in the US if you are not a US citizen. Once you get a green card, you will be deemed to be a US citizen.
Legally/officially, it is named the Permanent Resident Card. The federal law that set up this system that we know today for Green Cards is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 or the McCarran-Walter Act. It established a system that let people live and work permanently in the United States.
This very important piece of federal legislation completely changed how immigration works in the United States of America. This is what made it officially possible for people to get Permanent Resident Card to stay in the U.S. for a long time. Even though this law has been changed over time, it’s the one that first made the Green Card system we have today.
Why Do You Need A Green Card?
A Green Card is evidence to the Government and authorities stating that its holder is allowed to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. Now you can be a green card holder for various reasons. For that, the government makes options for different Green Card Categories of Permanent Resident Cards.
For example, they can be:
- Refugee or asylum based, and
- Many more.
However, it is to be noted that each category of green card comes with specific eligibility criteria.
So, what are the reasons one could need a green card?
Reason 1: Permanent Residency
This is a piece of documentation that can grant a person the right to be a permanent resident in the United States. If you do manage to qualify for a green card, you can live and stay here for a long time. You become a citizen of the United States that way.
Reason 2: Work In The United States
We all worry about work visas at one point or another. However, once you get this legal pass, you will no longer need to worry about getting special work visas. You can work in the U.S., just like the citizens, and earn money for yourself and your family.
Reason 3: A Green Card To Join Your Family
We all have a big soft spot for our families and close ones. Thus, you can also get a green card to go and join your family members who live in the United States.
Reason 4: Education Is Very Important
Your home country might not have as good an opportunity for education or higher education as the United States. We have all dreamt of applying to Ivy League schools to get that career boost, right? To make your big dreams come true, if you want to study in the United States, a Permanent Resident Card will help you enroll in schools, colleges, and universities and learn new things.
Reason 5: Health, Safety, And Social Benefits
Not many people know this, but this Green document(well its not actually green in color) is your way to accessing healthcare services and social benefits that the U.S. offers to its residents. These are the benefits we are talking about.
Reason 6: Access To Healthcare Services
These are the benefits we are talking about.
- Social Security Benefits
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Disability Benefits
- Unemployment Benefits
- Worker’s Compensation
- Survivor Benefits
- Retirement Benefits
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Long-Term Care Services
Reason 7: Your Ticket To Travel
You can travel to any country in the world and back to the US. You could also go back and forth between the U.S. and your home country whenever there is a need, without any trouble. This is great for visiting family, going on vacations, or if you are managing a business in various countries.
Reason 8: Your Card Is Your Citizenship
Non-US nationals almost become U.S. citizens after they have gotten a Permanent Resident Card. After that, they can get a chance to apply for citizenship.
How To Get A Green Card?
In order to get a card, first, you must prove your eligibility to the United States immigration department.
Here Is How
For this, you will first after decide the category under which you need to get the card. This can include employment-based, family-sponsored, asylum-based, or diversity visa lottery- choose whichever one suits your circumstances the best.
- Then you will need to look for a lawyer to file a petition stating that you want the card, or you can get a family member, a sponsor, and an employer to find this petition for you.
- In some cases, this petition is time-bound. This means that you will have to file the petition before a certain date.
- You will have to prove to the United States authorities that you have not engaged in criminal or illegal activities. A criminal background could disqualify you from the process.
- You will also need to qualify for a medical examination to prove that you are fit for the card. In case a person has any communication diseases that could harm the health of United States citizens, they will be disqualified.
- You will need to provide various documents that prove your work history, your education, and even confirm your identity.
- Almost all immigrants trying to get a card will have to pass an English proficiency exam. You might also have to qualify for an interview with an immigration official. After the interview with the US Embassy, you will be deemed in or out to get the card.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Green Card?
All great things take time. That does not mean that we get to be impatient about it, right? However, that is easier said than done, obviously. The time it takes to get a card in the United States varies. But this is the basic timeline of it all.
Time For Family Members Of U.S. Citizens
If the person looking to get the card is an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen, like a spouse or child, it might take about a period of 1 to 1.5 years.
For Family Members Who Do Not Qualify As Spouse or Child
If the card being applied for is for a family member in a different category, it could take a few years or even more. It depends on how many people are applying in that category.
Thus, it’s safe to say that the time to get a Green Card varies by the category you fall in and your specific and unique factors.
Time Taken For Employment-Based Cards
If you’re looking to get a card to come work in the U.S., the time can differ. Some jobs might make it quicker, for example, in a year or half, but for others, it might take a few years.
Did You Know About The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery?
This is a system implemented by the United States Government. It is a program by the U.S. government that offers people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for a Card.
If you’re lucky and win the Card Lottery, you’ll need to apply for a visa. The waiting time allotted to each contestant really depends on how many other winners there are.
For Refugees Looking For Asylum
If you’ve already been granted asylum in the United States, you can apply for the Card after about a year. But the time can vary based on different things.
If you have been a victim of heinous crime victims or trafficking, it can take time based on the facts or circumstances of your specific case.
How To Renew A Green Card?
Why does one need to renew the card? Well, it is only to make sure that they continue being permanent residents of the United States of America.
So, What Should One Do To Be Able To Renew It?
First, you have to understand that the card is valid for 10 years. You will have to start applying for renewal of the card within in the first 6 months after the expiration of the current one.
What Is The Form That Is Required For A Card Renewal Called?
Form I-90 deals with the application for a renewed permanent resident card. You will have to visit the official website, download the form in its hard copy, fill it and then submit it.
- Now you will need together all the required documents. Various documents will have to support why you need to renew your card. It might include a copy of the existing card, your passport-size photos, and other relevant legal documentation.
- After that, you will have to pay a fee that is usually associated with the renewal. Please go ahead and check the official website to get a correct idea of what the fee amount and payment methods are.
- Now, when you are done being the fee go back and double-check your form for the accuracy of the information you have provided. If your current information does not match the previous information, you could get in trouble.
- After you have filled out the form correctly, you should follow the instructions given on the official website and submit the application electronically. You could also choose the send the hard copy through a registered mail service in the United States.
- So, you have submitted your application. It is time for the fingerprinting and photo appointment. The designated authorities will contact you for your biometric appointment. You will be assigned to an application support center and will have to attend accordingly.
- In some cases, USCIS, the designated authority on the matter, may schedule an interview so that they can verify your information. After that, you will just need to attend the interview at the specified location and time.
- After completing these necessary steps, all you have to do is wait for USCIS to process your application. You can track the status of your application on the USCIS website.
Once your renewal application is approved, voila! USCIS will send you your new card in the mail. This card will typically have a new expiration date.
We have hopefully answered your most basic and frequently asked questions by now. But some might also wonder how to get a Green/Permanent Resident Card in the USA without marriage. Well, the answer remains pretty much the same. First, you start by determining which category best fits your situation. File a Petition. Wait for the review and approval of the petition. Monitor the progress on the official site. Attend the appointment for fingerprinting and photos. If approved, you get a new card.
A Green/Permanent Resident Card can also be taken away. If you leave the United States for an extended period and cannot get a permit for re-entry, criminal behavior, or violations like fraud, drug trade, immigration fraud, or tax fraud, your card could be declared confiscated by the US Government.