Green card is a special American identity card, which represents that its owner is a Lawful Permanent Resident of the US. A green card allows a foreign-born person to have almost all the rights of a US citizen: to live permanently in US, to travel with this special status, to have legal work authorization, buy real estate, take out long term loans and have US credit, receive federal and state financial aid and social programs, and to receive many other benefits only available to permanent residents of US.
USCIS calls a green card an I-551 card. It is actually no longer green, but used to be green many years ago.
Each green card lists:
- The holder’s last name, first name and middle initial
- Country of nationality
- Alien number
- The date the holder became a permanent resident, and
- The date of the green card’s expiration
Where are green cards issued?
- Green Cards are issued in U.S. (with some exceptions), but the right to permanent resident status can be received either in the US through USCIS or abroad via US Department of State embassies.
- Green card holders received adjustment of status — change of status from nonimmigrant/temporary visa status to permanent resident status. In US, adjustment of status is granted by USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service).
- Immigrant visa holders receive their immigrant visas (a right to move to US permanently) originally in their home countries, issued by the US embassies and consulates abroad. Immigrant visas give them a right to come to US and receive a green card immediately when entering.
- When these immigrant visa holders cross the US border (in an international airport or other port of entry), they receive green cards mailed by USCIS.
2-year green card vs. 5-year green card
Depending on the method of adjustment of status, some lawful permanent residents get a 2-year green card, and some get a 10-year green card,
Spouses and Children of US Citizens born in foreign countries receive a conditional (2-year) green cards when the card is issued prior to the 2-year wedding anniversary, and they must apply to remove conditions on their residence 3 months prior to the 2-year anniversary of their permanent resident status.
All other green card applicants receive 10-year green cards, but the LPR status is permanent.
Green cards must be renewed every 10 years, at which time USCIS will collect biometrics from the resident to check for arrests and security issues.
Most green card holders become eligible to become US citizens after either 3 or 5 years through naturalization.
Green card holders may not vote in federal US elections and may not represent themselves to be US citizens.
The keep your green card in good status, the following must be maintained:
- Compliance with all American laws (federal, state and local).
- Continuous physical residence in US
- Good moral character (no criminal history; not violating other laws and regulations)
- Males 18-25 years old must be registered in the Selective Service and may be drafted to the US armed force or other civil work for the US government in serious nationwide emergency situations.
Six ways to get a green card:
- Marry an American citizen. This applies not only to women but also to men, same-sex couples.
- Family Unification with immediate relatives who are already US citizens or green card holders.
- Work and investment.
- Asylum or refugee status.
- Abuse cases for battered spouses of US citizens and green card holders, U-Visa Holders for Victims of Crimes, and T-Visa holders for victims of human trafficking.
- Green Card Lottery (Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery), which is held annually. Citizens of countries from which few immigrants come to America can take part.
What are the odds of winning a green card in DV lottery?
Each year, the US government holds a Diversity Lottery Green Card program (DV lottery) where people of certain countries can apply to be randomly selected and win the green card in a drawing.
About 10 million people register annually for the DV lottery, and 55,000 Green Cards are being drawn. Thus, the probability of winning an average of 1 in 200. Winners are randomly selected by a computer program.