History Of The Green Card
Though the card itself is not actually green in color, the Alien Registration Card is commonly referred to as a green card and issued to foreign nationals who are lawful permanent residents of the United States. Historically, foreign nationals were required to register their status, i.e. student, worker, resident, etc., with the U.S. government. In return, the foreign national would receive a registration receipt. Those who received a permanent residence permit would receive a green receipt, giving rise to the term green card as it is used today.
Green Card Preservation
Once a green card is obtained, the lawful permanent resident must uphold the conditions that come along with being a green card holder. One condition is the intent to permanently reside in the United States. Absences from the United States for extended periods of time can lead to the presumption that a foreign national’s permanent residence and green card status have been abandoned. A lawful permanent resident can use the green card for travel, but admission to the U.S. after more than one year abroad will not be granted with just the green card. Af ter an absence from the United States for more than one year, the green card holder must apply for a reentry permit. The reentry permit is valid for two years and allows the green card holder to reenter the U.S. without being presumed to have abandoned their permanent residence.
Furthermore, green card holders are susceptible to deportation if they commit an offense for which they are removable. Thus, to maintain their green card, a foreign national should refrain from violating not only the immigration laws, but criminal laws as well.
Citizenship Residency Requirement
After a green card holder has lived continuously in the United States for 5 years, they are eligible to apply for citizenship. Green card holders that have been married to and living with the same U.S. citizen may be eligible to apply for citizenship after only 3 years. Prolonged absences from the United States not only jeopardize the preservation of the green card, but also disrupt a lawful permanent resident’s continuous residence for citizenship.
Obtaining A Green Card
There are multiple avenues available for a foreign national to obtain a green card, including employment, family, asylum, lottery, registry and Congressional act.
Foreign nationals on work visas may be eligible to apply for an employment-based green card. An approved labor certification is required for most employment-based green cards prior to the employer sponsor’s filing of the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Once the I 140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker is approved and the foreign national employee’s priority date is current, the green card process can be completed by filing Form I-485 Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor certain immediate family members for a green card. The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident sponsor must file Form I 130 Petition for Alien Relative and, if their relative is already in the United States, Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Whereas qualifying family members located in the U.S. can usually complete the green card process without having to travel abroad, relatives living abroad must complete the process at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
Foreign nationals that have been granted asylum or refugee status are eligible to apply for a green card. While foreign nationals granted asylum have the option to apply for a green card 1 year after entry as an asylee, foreign nationals in refugee status must apply for a green card 1 year after being admitted as a refugee. To apply for a green card, a refugee or asylee must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Foreign nationals that have been continuously present in the U.S., lawfully or unlawfully, since January 1, 1972 may be eligible for a green card based on the registry provisions of U.S. immigration law. To complete the green card process, an eligible foreign national must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Each year the Department of State holds a diversity visa lottery as part of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. From October to December, individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. may register for the lottery online. Individuals that have been randomly selected to receive one of the 50,000 visas available are notified by mail. The applicant must otherwise qualify for admission to the U.S. to receive the visa.
The United States Congress, from time to time, will enact a law that grants certain groups the ability to apply for a green card. For example, the U.S. Congress passed the Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act on November 1, 2000, allowing certain individuals from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to adjust their status and apply for a green card. The applicants must meet the qualifications and follow the application procedures set forth by Congress.