Getting a green card is an important step on the route to becoming a U.S. citizen. A green card holder is an individual who has permission to live and work in the U.S. on a more permanent basis. Upon receiving your status as a permanent resident in the country, you inherit certain rights and responsibilities. For starters, you gain the right to live legally in the U.S., provided you don’t commit any actions that would warrant your removal from the country under immigration law (e.g. committing a felony). Also, you’re afforded the right to work in the U.S. in whatever field you choose. By obtaining your green card, you become legally protected by U.S. law.
With the rights, you gain with a green card come responsibilities as well. For starters, you are required to obey all state and federal laws to stay in good standing as a permanent resident. Additionally, you must file both state and federal taxes every year with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. If you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25, you’re also required to register for the draft.
Once you do obtain your permanent residence status in the U.S., you maintain the same status until you complete the naturalization process or commit an unlawful action causing the government to strip you of your green card.
There are plenty of ways to file as a permanent resident. Here are three of the most common:
It’s fairly common for immigrants to obtain green cards through family members. There are a few different ways you could be eligible for such a route. To begin, you’re eligible for a green card if you have any immediate family members (like spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21 or parents) who are U.S. citizens already. The same is true if any of your immediate family members are green card holders themselves. There are also a few special circumstances that would warrant eligibility for permanent resident status. Battered spouses and children are made eligible for green cards as well as widows of U.S. citizens.
2. A job
There are a few different ways that you can become eligible for a green card through work. You may be eligible for permanent resident status if you’ve received a job offer in the U.S. Potential employers will fill out the Form I-140, which is the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. The same is true for businessmen and women who are making an investment that will lead to new U.S. jobs. You can “self-petition” if you feel you have abilities that would contribute to the U.S. labor force. There are also certain jobs that allow you to get a green card more easily. Careers in broadcasting and religion are two examples.
3. Refugee or asylee status
If you were granted permission to enter the U.S. as a refugee or asylee, you can apply for your citizenship one year after you arrive.