Getting a Green Card is probably the most well-known method of becoming a legal U.S. citizen, although the process of applying for a Green Card is far from easy. Here are a few important points about the Green Card application process and the most common problems that immigrants face when applying for one:
- Green Card Definition: Any foreign-born person wishing to reside permanently (and legally) in the U.S. will apply for a Green Card, including both people who reside outside of the U.S. at the time of the application, and people who apply while living in the U.S. and are looking to make an adjustment of status. A Green Card signifies that a person is a “permanent resident” of the U.S., meaning that the person is authorized to live and work in the country.
- Applying for a Green Card: The Green Card application process can be pretty complicated, and there are multiple ways to go about it. Most immigrants are sponsored by a family member who already resides in the U.S. or by a U.S.-based employer, while others seek a Green Card through marriage. Humanitarian concerns may also suffice on a Green Card application, and U.S. immigration laws typically leave room for extra applicants that are seeking asylum due to religious, political, or social persecution within their original country.
- Green Card Complications and Limitations: It’s important to remember that a Green Card is not the same thing as having full citizenship in the U.S., and a successful Green Card application will not necessarily result in citizenship. As legal non-citizens, Green Card holders may not vote in elections, become elected officials, or become eligible for federal government jobs. It’s possible to gain full citizenship through the process of naturalization after receiving a Green Card, although federal immigration laws require that naturalization applicants possess a Green Card for at least five years (although there are a few exceptions in which a Green Card holder only has to wait three years).
The Green Card application process requires the help of an experienced immigration attorney, but the benefits of legal U.S. residence definitely pay off in the end.