All about Green Cards

Anyone who knows anything about the immigration system in the United States has probably heard the term “green card.” Despite how frequently we use the term, very few people know what a green card is and the process for obtaining one.

Whether you’re embroiled in an immigration battle yourself or have a loved one looking to immigrate to the United States, keep reading to learn more about green cards.

What is a Green Card?

While many people use the term “Green Card,” the actual name is a “Permanent Resident Card.” A green card is used as proof that an immigrant has been given permission to reside permanently within the United States. Those with green cards are known as permanent residents.

Those with a green card have certain rights that other immigrants without them do not have. For example, those with a green card or permanent residency have the right to work inside the United States. In addition, they have the right to petition their spouse and any unmarried children become permanent residents as well.

However, it is important to note that there are some rights that those with green cards do not have. Green card holders do not have the right to vote in any U.S. elections, and if they do so, they could be charged with election fraud and prosecuted under the law. This could cost them any chance at U.S. citizenship in the future.

Permanent Residency vs. U.S. Citizenship

It is important to note that being a permanent resident and U.S. citizenship are not the same. Here are some of the privileges that U.S. citizens have that permanent residents do not:

  • Obtain a United States passport
  • Leave the country at any time without needing a reentry permit
  • Vote in U.S. federal and local elections
  • Hold government jobs
  • Serve on a jury
  • Receive certain grants and scholarships
  • Not be deported from the United States, unless you were found to commit fraud to obtain either your green card or U.S. citizenship

How to Obtain Permanent Citizenship

Permanent residents, meaning those with a green card, are eligible to apply for permanent United States citizenship after holding a green card for a period of five years. However, holding a green card for a period of five years isn’t the only requirement. Those applying for U.S. citizenship must also:

  • Be 18 years old 
  • Have lived in the state in which they are filing for at least 3 months (though students may apply where they go to school or where their family lives if still financially dependent)
  • Be present in the United States for at least 30 months during the 5 years with a green card period
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and demonstrate knowledge of U.S. government and history (done through a test)
  • Be a person of good moral character 

If you’re interested in applying for permanent U.S. citizenship, you should reach out to a trusted immigration attorney as soon as possible. 

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Why You Need a Visa Attorney

There is a good chance that someone is an immigrant in your family or in your ancestral history, If not, it is a strong bet that a close loved one or someone in their family lineage has an immigrant history. America is an amazing country and has truly been a land of opportunity for so many generations of immigrants.

No matter the current political climate, America will always be a land of immigrants and a country whose citizens will welcome newcomers with open arms. Part of this desire to promote immigration to this great place drove me to write this piece, in which I will outline the reasons you must hire a visa attorney or immigration lawyer.

A great country it may be, America has one of the most complex immigration systems in the world. Barriers are common and the average person does not know how to properly traverse these barriers. Othe reasons you need an attorney include:

  • Complexity
  • And consequences

In this article, I describe at-length the nature of these complex and consequential situations.

Too complex

The visa process in America is complex, to say the least. There are nearly 200 different variations of a visa available to foreign nationals wanting to enter American territories! As a result, some of the different visa types have overlapping requirements and qualifications. If you are a student seeking to come to America to study, it should be simple to determine what visa or specific paperwork you need to seek out.

But if you are also going to be employed while in the United States, this can affect the type of visa for which you qualify. Additionally, the type of education are you attempting to pursue (undergraduate, graduate, vocational, etc.) affects your visa categories.

One of the most common divergences in the visa categorization process is determining your length of stay — if you are seeking to stay in America only for a short, temporary period (such as the aforementioned educational pursuit), then you need a non-immigrant visa. These visas are much easier to obtain!

Large consequences

The system is too complicated for a non-lawyer to understand. But the implications of making a mistake are an even bigger reason to get a visa lawyer like those at the Law Office of William Jang, PLLC.

You have probably heard stories discussing immigration enforcement, including raids or forced deportations. While this is not likely to occur to you, it is still important that you follow immigration and visa laws. This also includes subjecting yourself to regulations you may not understand. Unfortunately for those who cannot understand the complexity of the visa system in the United States, ignorance of the law does not provide innocence before the criminal justice system.

If you are caught knowingly or unwittingly violating the law by being in America on the incorrect visa, you could potentially be fined or face other punishments. It is just not worth the hassle or the potential error; you need to find a reliable legal professional with experience in immigration and visa matters!

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