If you’re like many people, you’re familiar with green cards – the identification cards that the U.S. government gives to lawful permanent residents, or LPRs. But there are several green card facts that most people don’t know, so this guide explains.
Facts About Green Cards
Whether you already have a green card or you’re interested in getting one, here are seven facts that can help you on your way:
- Some green cards are “conditional.”
- You may not have to sign your green card.
- Your green card expires after 10 years.
- If your green card expires, you’re not going to be deported.
- You can lose your lawful permanent resident status.
- Not everyone is eligible for a green card.
- Getting a divorce may impact your green card status.
Here’s a closer look at each.
Green Card Fact #1: Some Green Cards Are Conditional
Green cards can be conditional. That means you have to meet certain conditions before your green card becomes permanent, such as when your green card is based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen. You must remain married for two years before you can remove the conditions from your green card.
Green Card Fact #2: You May Not Have to Sign Your Green Card
If you’re under the age of 18, or if you’re physically disabled, you don’t have to sign your green card. Instead, your green card will say “Signature Waived.”
Green Card Fact #3: Your Green Card Expires After 10 Years
Green cards expire after 10 years. However, the card itself is what expires – not your lawful permanent resident status. (You’re not going to be deported if you fail to renew your green card.) However, you need your green card to get a new job or to get back into the United States if you leave, so it’s in your best interest to renew it about six months before it expires.
There are some instances in which it’s possible to lose your permanent resident status, such as when you commit a certain type of crime or fraud, or when you remain outside the United States for too long. That’s true whether your green card itself is valid or expired.
Green Card Fact #4: If Your Green Card Expires, You’re Not Going to Be Deported
It’s generally okay if your green card expires – it’s the card itself that expires, not your lawful permanent resident status. You should renew your green card six months before it expires, though, or even sooner if you plan to be out of the country when your green card is set to expire. That way, you won’t have any unintended consequences (like not being able to get back into the United States when you arrive).
Green Card Fact #5: You Can Lose Your Lawful Permanent Resident Status
It is possible to lose your lawful permanent resident status – the U.S. government can revoke it for certain reasons. For example, if you abandon your residence here, the government can assume that you don’t intend to remain a lawful permanent resident. (You can travel outside the U.S. for up to six months without losing your green card, and longer in some cases.)
Likewise, if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services discovers that you lied on your green card application (or on any other immigration document), you can have your lawful permanent resident status and your green card revoked. Additionally, several crimes can cause you to lose your lawful permanent resident status, including:
- Aggravated felonies
- Sex crimes
- Drug trafficking
- Firearm-related or destructive device-related crimes
- Money laundering
- Other crimes of moral turpitude
Green Card Fact #6: Not Everyone is Eligible for a Green Card
Some people aren’t eligible for green cards because the visas that brought them to the United States aren’t intended to lead to permanent residence. For example, you can’t come to the U.S. on a tourist visa and apply for a green card – the system doesn’t work that way. You must come to the U.S. on the right type of visa (generally one to get married, to work or invest, to join another family member here, or another type expressly designed to lead to lawful permanent residency) in order to be eligible for a green card.
Green Card Fact #7: Getting a Divorce May Impact Your Green Card Status
If you divorce your spouse while you’re in the process of applying for a marriage-based green card, your petition could be denied. For example, if you and your spouse split up after you’ve applied but before you’ve received USCIS approval, you cannot get a green card – the reason you were eligible for lawful permanent residency was your relationship with your spouse, and when that relationship ends, you have no basis for eligibility. Additionally, if you divorce before you remove the conditions from your green card, you will have to take additional steps to prove to USCIS that you were in a good-faith, bona fide marriage. If USCIS can’t determine that your marriage was genuine (rather than one you entered into so you could obtain an immigration benefit, such as a green card), you may lose your green card and your eligibility to remain in the United States.
Green Cards Through Employment
You may be able to get a green card based on your employment in the United States. If you’re an immigrant worker, you’re here on a Physician National Interest Waiver, or an immigrant investor, your employment status may qualify you for a green card.
Green Cards Through Family
Your familial relationships may qualify you for a green card. This table outlines what requirements you must meet for each relationship in order to apply for and receive a green card in the U.S.
|Immediate relative||You must be the spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, or parent of a U.S. citizen|
|Relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident||You must be the unmarried child of a U.S. citizen over the age of 21, the married child of a citizen, or sibling of a citizen who is at least 21 years old; or you must be the spouse or unmarried child of a lawful permanent resident|
|Fiancé of a U.S. citizen, or the child of a U.S. citizen’s fiancé||You must be engaged to marry a U.S. citizen (or your parent must be)|
|Widow or widower of a U.S. citizen||You must have been married to a U.S. citizen spouse at the time your spouse died|
|VAWA self-petitioner||You must be an abused spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or the abused child (and you must be unmarried and under the age of 21) or parent of a U.S. citizen|
Other Categories for Green Cards
You may be eligible for a green card because you:
- Have refugee or asylee status in the United States. You must wait one year from the time you’re granted your status before you can apply for a green card.
- Are a human trafficking victim or crime victim. If you’re in the U.S. on a T or U nonimmigrant visa, you may be eligible to apply for a green card.
- Are part of a “special immigrant” category. Special immigrants include religious workers, juveniles who were abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent, and Afghanistan or Iraq nationals. Additionally, international broadcasters and employees of certain international organizations (and their families) may be eligible for green cards as special immigrants.
Do You Need to Speak With an Attorney About These (or Other) Green Card Facts?
Now that you have a handful of basic green card facts, you may need to speak with an attorney about your situation. We’re always happy to help, and we’ll answer your questions about visas, green cards and other immigration matters – just call our office today to schedule your free consultation.