What is a Green Card Holder?
If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, it’s essential that you have all your documentation in order if you’d like to remain in the U.S. as a permanent resident.
What is a Green Card?
A Green Card, also known as a Lawful Permanent Resident Card or Form I-551 grants someone who isn’t a U.S. citizen unlimited access to live and work within the U.S., giving them almost all of the same rights as a U.S. citizen.
Once you’ve obtained a Green Card, you’ll be known as a ‘Lawful Permanent Resident’ or an LPR for short.
A Green Card is a permanent visa and is the only way that you’d be able to move to the U.S. permanently without having to renew or apply every couple of years. It’s a way to secure your future, as short-term visas give no guarantee on your right to remain in the U.S. as it depends on the current economic and social climate.
What Does a Green Card Look Like?
The first ever Green Card was issued in 1940 by the newly formulated U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). It was named the ‘Alien Registration Receipt Card’ and gave people authorization to remain in the U.S. The card was initially green, hence its nickname. However, it’s changed color a number of times since, reverting back to the green design in 2010.
The card gives personal information about its holder and serves as a legal form of ID. It contains the first and surname of the holder, their date and country of birth, their sex, fingerprint, photograph, USCIS number and visitor category and contains an issue and expiry date.
Who Needs a Green Card?
If you intend to live permanently in the U.S., but you are currently listed as an immigrant, then Green Card holder status will grant you indefinite leave to remain in the U.S. and can grant you most of the same rights as a standard U.S. citizen.
- Free travel status, meaning you can leave the country on vacation as a normal U.S. citizen.
- Medical care entitlement after 5 years.
- Potential citizenship at 5 years.
- A right to vote in certain states.
- A work permit.
- Cheaper study opportunities.
The Green Card also has a life-long status, meaning you don’t need to worry about your right to live in the U.S. being revoked, which could potentially happen on other visas.
What is a Green Card Holder?
To become a Green Card holder, there are a couple of routes you could take. But initially, you need to discover if you are actually eligible for a Green Card. There are a number of categories that are eligible for Green Card status:
Green Card through family
If you have immediate family, children or a spouse that are U.S. citizens or already have Green Cards, then they may be able to sponsor you.
Green Card through employment
If your work requires you to live continuously within the U.S., your employer may sponsor you.
Special Green Card
This category applies to people who may have employment which requires them to travel. While they may need to be in the U.S. often, this isn’t continuous living, but would be difficult to seek out short-term visas each time. For example, news broadcasters or religious workers.
Refugee or Asylum Seeker
Refugees or asylum seekers may be eligible to apply for a Green Card if they have been in the U.S. for a continuous period of 1 year.
Crime victims or victims of abuse
People needing to enter the U.S. to escape abuse or remain safe from crime may be eligible for a Green Card if they have a non-immigrant visa.
Green Card through registry
You may be automatically entitled to a Green Card if you have resided continuously in the U.S. since Jan 1, 1972.
How to Get a Green Card
To become a Green Card holder, you need to apply online by filing form I-485. You can do this on the USCIS website directly or contact an expat specialist service to help you – the form can be tricky and it’s essential that you fill it in correctly to have a chance at Green Card holder status.
The form you fill in should be submitted with all supporting documents and signatures to the address, or online to the body that the form refers to, depending on the reason that you’re applying.
Once your form has been submitted, along with any documentation required, you will be invited to an interview at the US consulate to discuss your status and the reasons for your desire to obtain a Green Card. The document you may require are:
- A passport.
- Government issued ID documents.
- A birth certificate.
- Immigration approval receipt and category (I-797, I-130 or I-485).
- I-508 Waiver of diplomatic rights.
- I-601 Waiver of inadmissibility.
- I-864 Affidavit of support.
If you’re worried about gathering all of the information required for an interview, you should get in touch with a professional immigration service who will be able to talk you through the process
What if I’m way behind on my U.S. tax returns?
There is a special IRS program to help you catch up on your U.S. taxes safely, without fines and penalties
It’s for American citizens that didn’t know they had to file U.S. tax returns each year, and have therefore fallen behind. Some more than 30 years! With the IRS Streamlined Procedure, say goodbye to overdue tax returns, late fees, and penalties. If you have children, we can backdate your Child Tax Credit Refund for 3 years.
Get a quote here.
The Green Card Lottery
A Green Card can be obtained through the standard, online application process, through sponsorship from your family or spouse, investment from your company for a work-based Green Card, or by winning the Green Card Lottery.
If you don’t have any direct connections to the USA, but you are fixed on living the American dream, then the lottery is your best chance of success.
The consulate raffles off 55,000 Green Cards each year. To be in with a chance, you need to apply online using a form. Even the smallest errors made on this form can lead to disqualification, so you must ensure it’s exactly right. Again, if you’re worried about completion, get an expert pair of eyes to look this over first.
Winners are randomly selected and will be subject to the same interview process via the US consulate as any other applicant.
How Much is a Green Card?
The price of a Green Card can vary depending on the reason that you need one or the way that you were sponsored.
A basic Green Card applied for online or won via the lottery costs around $1000- $1200 based on the processing fee, immigration fee and medical examinations required.
However, if you are entering on an employment-based Green Card, your company may be subject to additional costs for a Foreign Workers Petition and legal fees to assume responsibility for you while you’re in the U.S. This could potentially be up to $6000 on top of the basic fee.
If you’ve been sponsored by a family member, you will need to pay for an Affidavit of Support and a Foreign Relative Petition, which is around $700 on top of the basic application.
How Long Can a Green Card Holder Stay Out of the Country?
Once your Green Card application has been approved and you’ve received the Green Card, you then have 6 months to enter the U.S. from that date.
The first time you enter the U.S. on your new Green Card, the border officer with check your card against your personal data, so you should ensure you have all your supporting documentation with you.
This initial trip to the U.S. doesn’t need to be your actually moving data to America, you may come and go as you please as you are now classed as a permanent resident.
Going forward, you may stay out of the country for up to 6 months at a time, while still retaining your Green Card status.
Travel Document for Green Card Holders
While a Green Card entitles you to stay outside the U.S. for a total of 6 continuous months, there are certain types of travel that can affect your Green Card status.
Travel documents for Green Card holders are known as re-entry permits. These permits are similar to passports, containing an identification page and entry and exit stamps to determine your travel routes.
You may need a travel document alongside your Green Card if you intend to leave the U.S. for longer than 6 months. Your Green Card could also be revoked, even if your long-term leave is unintentional.
To apply for travel documents to support your Green Card status, you must fill out a I-131 form and provide supporting documents including a copy of your Green Card, your passport, any previously issues re-entry permits and a selection of bills, driver’s license or other supporting documents that prove your intention to stay in the U.S.
Once a re-entry form has been obtained, it is valid for 2 years from the issue date. This means that you can safely leave the U.S. for more than 6 months without having your Green Card revoked, however, you must return at least once within 2 years.
When Can a Green Card holder Apply for Citizenship?
A Green Card holder can apply to be a full-fledged U.S. citizen after 5 years of holding the card. This will entitle them to vote anywhere in the U.S., mean they can travel outside the U.S. for longer than 6 months and still be a U.S. citizen and have full access to the education system without any extra fees.
You must have been in the U.S. for a total of 30 months within these 5 years and have been resident in the same state for at least 3 months prior to applying for citizenship. You must also have sufficient spoken and written English skills as determined by the consulate, in order to achieve citizenship status.
Can a Green Card Holder Sponsor a Family Member?
Yes. While U.S. citizens are able to sponsor spouses, children and other family members, such as parents or siblings for a Green Card, there are a few more restrictions on Green Card holders, so it doesn’t quite give you all the rights of a U.S. born citizen.
As a permanent resident holding a Green Card, you are still able to sponsor a foreign spouse for a Green Card if they intend to live permanently with you. You are also able to sponsor your children, even if they are now adults, as long as they aren’t married to someone outside of the U.S.
Can a Green Card Holder Sponsor Parents?
At this stage, unfortunately not, unless you happen to be a member of the U.S. military. A U.S. citizen is about to sponsor their parents for a Green Card, but a permanent resident who is a Green Card holder would only be able to sponsor spouses, future spouses or children.
What US tax obligations do Green Card holders face?
Green Card holders are treated pretty much the same as US citizens when it comes to tax obligations and reporting. Once they’ve entered the US for the first time with their Green Card they’ll need to start declaring worldwide income and assets to the IRS via a US federal tax return.
Filing FBARs (Foreign Bank Account Report) is another separate requirement for Green Card holders to be aware of.
Green Card holders frequently get caught out by non-US investments. Some types of investments set up in their home country can have heavy US filing obligations that include hefty late filing penalties.
My Green Card has expired. Can I stop filing US tax returns?
Green Cards only expire for immigration purposes, not US tax reporting purposes. There is a particular set of paperwork to be completed to officially hand back a Green Card and close the door on US tax reporting.
Get some help from one of our Green Card holder specialists.
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