Green Card Benefits
Understanding Your Green Card Benefits
If you’re like many people, you’ve considered immigrating to the United States and eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.
One step in the immigration process is obtaining a green card.
A green card is a document that denotes your lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. – and generally, you must obtain a green card before you can apply for citizenship.
But what are green card benefits? What does a green card mean for the person who holds it?
Here’s what you need to know.
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Your Guide to Green Card Benefits
A green card enables you to begin down the path to eventual U.S. citizenship. Officially, a green card is known as a Permanent Resident Card – and a person who has one enjoys many benefits that people visiting the U.S. temporarily do not have. With a green card, you’re a lawful permanent resident, or LPR, of the United States.
Related: Should you hire a green card lawyer?
List of Green Card Benefits
If you have a green card, you can:
In addition to enjoying these benefits, you’ll have a set of responsibilities to uphold. For example, you’ll have to:
Here’s a closer look at each.
Applying for Citizenship as a Green Card Benefit
When you have lawful permanent resident status in the United States, you can apply for citizenship after a certain amount of time has passed. The amount of time you must wait depends on your reason for having a green card in the first place. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, for example, you can apply for citizenship three years after your marriage; if you have a green card for any other reason, you must generally wait five years.
Having a green card is typically a must before you apply for U.S. citizenship. Most people can’t apply for citizenship if they haven’t had lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. for the prescribed amount of time.
Traveling in and out of the United States
Lawful permanent residents are generally free to travel in and out of the United States. Unlike visa holders, who must get specific permission to leave and return unless they want to apply for a new visa, LPRs with green cards can present a passport from their country of citizenship (or a refugee travel document) to travel to a foreign country.
(You must also meet your destination country’s travel requirements.) To return to the U.S. from abroad, you’ll have to present your passport and your valid, unexpired green card. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will review your green card and other identity documents upon your arrival. You do not need a visa to reenter the United States.
Some important things to know, however, include:
Sponsoring Certain Relatives for Visas or Green Cards
If you have a green card, you may petition the U.S. government for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. You can petition for a spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and unmarried children of any age.
In order to help one of your immediate family members get a green card, you’ll have to file Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative. You’ll also need to provide proof of your own LPR status, as well as submit evidence of your qualifying relationship (such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce decrees).
Your family members will have to wait for a green card to become available to them. Sometimes the wait is quite long, and LPR status is granted in order of preference as follows:
Spending Less Money on Tuition
As a lawful permanent resident of the United States, one of the green card benefits you’ll enjoy is being able to apply for resident tuition at colleges, universities and trade schools. If you’ve ever applied for higher education before, you know that international tuition can be quite expensive.
Making Financial Contributions to U.S. Elections
Another green card benefit is the ability to make financial contributions to U.S. elections. That means you can financially support a political candidate who shares your ideals and vision – and that’s something that visa holders cannot do.
If you or your family members has been put into deportation processing, you should find experienced counsel to help
Green Card Benefits That Are Different From Citizenship Benefits
As a green card holder, you don’t get all the same benefits that U.S.-born and naturalized citizens get. If you have a green card, you can’t:
However, one of your green card benefits is the ability to apply for naturalization after you’ve had LPR status for a certain amount of time. You must generally have a green card before you can apply for citizenship, so this is one step toward that goal.
Do You Need to Learn More About Green Card Benefits?
If you want to learn more about green card benefits, or if you’d like to learn how it may be possible for you to obtain a green card, we’re here to help. Call our office and schedule your free immigration consultation today – we’ll be glad to answer your questions.