Getting a Green Card

A foreign national can obtain a U.S. permanent residence card (“Green Card”) through various means such as family members, employment, adoption, or as an asylum seeker or refugee. The time that the process requires is affected by the applicant and the category within which he or she applies. Individuals undergoing the application process should be sure to reference the fact sheet provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which provides answers for many of the questions raised during the application process.

Getting a Green Card is merely the first step in maintaining permanent U.S. residence documentation, and cardholders should maintain their immigration status by ensuring that their card remains current at all times.

Getting a Green Card and Completing the Immigration Process:

The Green Card process is multi-layered one, and you should take care to complete the application correctly in order to avoid difficulties.

1. You must qualify under one of the categories for eligibility described by the USCIS.

2. The USCIS should approve an immigrant petition, which is usually filed by an employer or relative. (There are certain applicants who can petition on their own behalf, like the priority workers, investors or special immigrants.)

3. If you are thinking of getting a Green Card through employment, then, if required, your U.S. employer should submit a labor certification request to the U.S. Department of Labor.

4. You should possess an immigrant visa number, provided by the U.S. State Department.

5. If you are already in the United States, you may apply for an adjustment of status or file for permanent residency after a visa number has been provided to you. If you are outside the United States, you must go to the nearest U.S. consulate to complete the process.

Maintaining Your Status with Form I-90:

Once a Green Card is issued, it normally remains valid for a period of 10 years. In order to keep this card current, you may need to renew or replace it. Form I-90 is used for renewal or replacement requests.

If you were issued a Green Card by the USCIS that has an expiration date, you should use Form I-90 to begin the process of renewing your card at least 6 months prior to the expiration date. Once your application is accepted, you will be issued a temporary proof of your status with the local USCIS office that is valid for one year. (If your Green Card does not have an expiration date, it may not need to be renewed.)

It is important to note that although you may not lose your status in the U.S. if your Green Card expires, it is always advisable to retain evidence of your permanent resident status to avoid potential difficulties in obtaining employment, benefits extended by the government, or re-entry into the United States.

What If I Am a Conditional Permanent Resident?

If you are a Conditional Permanent Resident your Green Card is valid for only 2 years. You do not use Form I-90 if you are a conditional resident and your status is expiring. As a conditional Permanent Resident, you are required to file a petition to remove those conditions within 90 days of your card expiring.

If you obtained your conditional status through marriage, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.

If you obtained your conditional status by being an investor, you must file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.

Once your petition is approved, you will be sent a new Green Card valid for 10 years. And it is at this point that you can use Form I-90 to renew or replace your Green Card.