A green card holder is a permanent resident of the United States, but not a citizen. Green card status means someone has been allowed to come into the country, work, and live permanently. Physically, it is a plastic card that tells officials an individual is living and working in the country legally. The card is not actually green, although it once was.
The application process is not as rigorous as filing for citizenship, and many immigrants use green cards as an intermediate step as they move from becoming a visitor in the country to becoming a citizen. Here are some of the most common questions you might have about green cards and their answers:
As with most government affairs, the set time to obtain a green card may vary. Processing time and other factors may expedite or slow down the overall process. However, determining your eligibility prior to applying and/or speaking with an attorney may speed up the process. Following the instructions on the forms precisely is very important and may effect whether your application is approved or rejected. Processing time can take on average between 7-33 months.
You cannot get a green card on a whim because you are tired of your home country. Instead, you have to be sponsored by family, sponsored by an employer, be an investor with the required amount of capital, be seeking asylum as a refugee, or win a diversity lottery that is typically held annually in the US.
All of the forms you need to fill out can be downloaded through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. You will need to file Form I-485 to apply for permanent residency, but depending on your eligibility requirements, you may also need to file other forms concurrently. The forms are detailed, and you will need to carefully fill out each section. A Houston green card attorney may also be helpful during this part of the process to ensure you have filled out every part of the forms required by the agency.
Unfortunately, filing for a green card is not always cheap. Filing your application will cost $420. In addition to the initial cost of filing, you will also have other fees that may be associated with your immigration and affidavit of support. Other costs you may want to budget include translation services, medical exams, original document replacements, legal fees, and travel expenses. Some supplemental forms may cost as much as $1,000 to file. Consider budgeting the cost of applying for a green card before filing the initial application to expedite the process.
If you have held your green card actively for five years, or you have been married to a citizen for three years, you may apply for citizenship in the US.
If you have been denied a green card, you can appeal the decision under certain circumstances. To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, we highly recommend talking to an outside professional who has experience with the immigration process. The forms and the process can be complex and difficult to understand.
You may have many more questions than the few listed in this article. If you are interested in getting your green card, particularly during this time of national debate regarding immigration, contact us. We can help you answer further questions regarding your status and move forward with your application or appeals process.