Being approved for a green card in the U.S. is something many immigrants wish for, yet when it happens, it’s not always clear what the green card entitles them to. Here’s what you need to know about your rights if you or a loved one has been approved for a green card, which makes them a permanent U.S. resident.
What Protections Does a Green Card Offer in the U.S.?
There are several, and being aware of them is vital.
- Permanent residency in the U.S. This is perhaps the most significant right of the green card. Once someone has received a green card, they most likely will not be deported back to their country of origin, even if immigration law changes in the future. It’s not a temporary benefit, either. However, the right to be a permanent U.S. resident can be forfeited if the green card holder commits a crime or violates a law. To maintain permanent resident status, the immigrant must be a law-abiding citizen.
- Employability. Green card holders can legally work in any type of job they’re qualified for, with the exception of some positions related to U.S. security.
- Protected by U.S. laws. Permanent residents are protected by the same laws and ordinances that U.S. citizens are.
- Travel and reside anywhere in the U.S. The green card holder has complete freedom to move throughout the U.S. and live anywhere within its borders. It’s also easier for a green card holder to travel internationally than for other types of visa holders.
- Federal benefits. Green card holders can apply for federal benefits, including Social Security (after a specific residency period has elapsed) and education assistance.
- Elections. Green card holders are eligible to participate in U.S. elections by donating to candidates or volunteering for campaigns. However, they’re not eligible to vote.
What Responsibilities Do Green Card Holders Have?
U.S. citizens have several responsibilities tied to citizenship, and the same applies to green card holders. Besides obeying the law, as discussed above, here are other responsibilities green card holders need to abide by.
- Carry your green card. Green card holders must have their green cards with them at all times. Failure to do so can lead to up to 30 days in jail.
- Pay taxes. Green card holders are expected to file the appropriate federal and state income tax forms and pay the required taxes, just as U.S. citizens do.
- Selective service. Males between the ages of 18 through 25 are required to register for selective service.
- Support democracy. Green card holders must abide by democratic principles and not engage in anti-democracy activities.
- Regular renewal. Green cards must be renewed every 10 years to remain valid.
What Rights Do Green Card Holders Not Have Compared to U.S. Citizens?
There are several rights that do not apply to green card holders.
- As mentioned above, green card holders can support or volunteer for the campaigns of elected officials, but they cannot vote. In addition, green card holders cannot run for office themselves.
- They cannot transfer their green cards to others.
- Children of green card holders who were born outside the U.S. are not automatically granted a green card themselves; they still have to go through the application process.
- Green card holders can sponsor other family members for green cards, but those applications take lower priority than applications sponsored by U.S. citizens.
- They will not receive a U.S. passport.
- If a green card holder remains in the U.S. for eight or more years, then leaves the U.S. permanently, they would be expected to pay expatriation and exit taxes similar to those paid by a U.S. citizen who renounced their U.S. citizenship.
- While having a green card does not 100% guarantee the holder protection from deportation, it does guarantee freedom from deportation if the deportation would have been due to a change in immigration laws.
Who Is Eligible to Apply for a Green Card?
There are several types of eligibility, including:
- Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
- VAWA self-petitioner
- Immigrant worker
- Abused, neglected, or abandoned juvenile
- Member of the media for the U.S. Agency for Global Media
- Irani or Afghanistani nationals who worked for the U.S. government
What Is Required to Apply for a Green Card?
There are several requirements to apply for a green card, including various documents, and strict timelines need to be followed. Having an experienced immigration attorney assisting you is highly recommended, as the smallest errors could cause the application to be denied, leading to having to start all over again.
The documents you may need to provide with your application include (if applicable):
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate and/or divorce papers
- Proof of sponsor’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residence
- Financial documents
- Medical examination records
- Military records
- Immigration violation, police, court, or prison records
- Police clearance certificate
- Current or expired U.S. visa
What Should I Do if a Loved One or I want to Apply for a Green Card?
Call us as soon as possible at 857-347-3701 to request a free immigration and green card case evaluation. Green card laws and applications can be complicated, and it’s best to have an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney working with you. We understand the laws and requirements and can guide you through the process as smoothly as possible.