You’re in the United States on a visa that’s about to expire. You don’t want to leave, you like it here. But time is ticking away. You don’t want to face deportation or get in trouble with the law. So you decide to get a green card. But how?
A green card gives someone the authorization to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. It doesn’t mean you’re a citizen of the United States just yet; in fact, many green card holders have to wait several years before they can apply to become a U.S. citizen. However, a green card will give you permanent, lawful status for your stay in the United States. It gives the holder the right to work, travel, and return to the United States. It also allows the holder to petition for close relatives to receive their own green cards.
However, green card holders don’t have all the rights a U.S. citizen has. For instance, they cannot vote or leave the U.S. for an unlimited amount of time. In addition, the green card holder cannot make a home in another country — doing so will mean you lose the right to residency in the U.S. and may not be able to reenter the country. You may also not get the same assistance and benefits as U.S. citizens do. Many federal programs have a five-year waiting period before a green card holder to start receiving any benefits.
To obtain a green card, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- You have immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens. Examples would be a spouse, a parent, stepchildren, or adopted children.
- You have other family members who are citizens. For example, an unmarried child of a green card holder that is younger than 21.
- Your employment is important to the U.S. market. If an employer had hired you because of a certain set of skills you possess and couldn’t find a qualified U.S. worker to hire, then you can apply for a green card. But know that you may have to wait a few years for an available green card since this is considered a “preference category.”
- You apply for the lottery. Every year, around 50,000 green cards are made available for people in other countries. Check this out for more information.
- Special cases, such as international broadcasters or retired U.S. government employees.
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