United States lawful permanent residency, informally known as green
card, is the immigration status of a person authorized to live and
work in the
United States of America permanently. Green cards are
valid for 10 years for permanent residents, and 2 years for
conditional permanent residents. After this period, the card must be
renewed or replaced. The application process may take several years.
An immigrant usually has to go through a three-step process to get
permanent residency that includes petition and processing.
United States Permanent Resident Card (
USCIS Form I-551), formerly
known as Alien Registration Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card
(INS Form I-151), is an identification card attesting to the permanent
resident status of an alien in the United States. Owing to its green
design from 1946 until 1964, it is known informally as a "green card",
a nickname it retained even after the color was changed. The card was
restored to green in 2010. "Green card" also refers to an
immigration process of becoming a permanent resident. The green card
serves as proof that its holder, a lawful permanent resident (LPR),
has been officially granted immigration benefits, including permission
to reside and take employment in the United States. The holder must
maintain permanent resident status, and can be removed from the United
States if certain conditions of this status are not met.
Green cards were formerly issued by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS). The
Homeland Security Act of 2002
Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No.
107–296, 116 Stat. 2135) dismantled INS and separated the former
agency into three components within the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS). The first, the
United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS), handles applications for immigration
benefits. Two other agencies were created to oversee the INS's former
functions of immigration enforcement: U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) and
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP),
Permanent residents of the
United States eighteen years of age or
older must carry their actual green card at all times. Failing to do
so is a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, carrying the
possibility of a fine up to $100 and imprisonment for up to 30 days
for each offense. Only the federal government can impose these
Cards issued between January 1977 and August 1989 do not have document
numbers or expiration dates and are valid indefinitely.
1 Reading a permanent resident card
2 Path to U.S. citizenship
3 Types of immigration
3.1 Immigration eligibility and quotas
4 Application process
4.1 Application process for family-sponsored visa for both parents and
4.1.1 Green-card holders and families
4.1.2 Improving the application process in obtaining a green card
18.104.22.168 Challenges with processing time of application
22.214.171.124 Quota system challenges
4.2 Application process for employment-based visa
4.3 Green card lottery
4.3.1 Recent developments
4.3.2 Crime: green card lottery scam
4.3.3 Green card lottery e-mail fraud
5 Conditional permanent residence
5.1 Differences between permanent residents and conditional permanent
6 Abandonment or loss of permanent residence status
6.1 Tax costs of green card relinquishment
7 Visa-free travel for green-card holders
8 See also
10 External links
10.1 US Government immigration sites
Reading a permanent resident card
While most of the information on the card is self-evident, the
computer- and human-readable signature at the bottom is not. The
format follows the machine-readable travel document TD1 format:
1–2: C1 or C2. C1 = resident within the United States, C2 =
permanent resident commuter (living in Canada or Mexico)
3–5: USA (issuing country, United States)
6–14: 9-digit number (A#, alien number)
15: check digit over digits 6–14
USCIS receipt number, padded with "<" as a
1–6: birth date (in YYMMDD format)
7: check digit over digits 1–6
9–14: expiration date (in YYMMDD format)
15: check digit over digits 9–14
16–29: country of birth
30: cumulative check digit (over digits 6–30 (upper line), 1–7,
9–15, 19–29 (lower line))
surname, given name, middle name, first initial of father, first
initial of mother (this line is spaced with "<<" between the
surname and given name). Depending on the length of
the name, the father's and mother's initials may be omitted.
A full list of category codes (i.e. IR1, E21, etc.) can be found in
the Federal Register or Foreign Affairs Manual.
Since May 11, 2010, new green cards contain an
RFID chip and can
be electronically accessed at a distance. They are shipped with a
protective sleeve intended to protect the card from remote access, but
it is reported to be inadequate.
Path to U.S. citizenship
A lawful permanent resident can apply for
United States citizenship,
or naturalization, after five years of residency including a physical
presence of 30 months within a five-year period (a lawful permanent
resident must be physically present on U.S. soil at least 30 months of
a 5-year residency period as defined under Title 8 Code of Federal
Regulations Section 316.2 - there are limitations where the physical
presence exemption is waived if the lawful permanent resident is
employed overseas e.g. with the U.S. Government including military
service, U.S. Government contractors, recognized American institutions
of research, public international organizations e.g. Christian
missionaries, or organizations defined under the International
Immunities Act e.g. International Red Cross, World Health
Organization, UN). This period is shortened to three years if married
to a U.S. citizen (8 CFR 319). Lawful permanent residents may submit
their applications for naturalization as early as 90 days before
meeting the residency requirement. In the United States, 8.8 million
lawful permanent residents are eligible to naturalize. Citizens
are entitled to more rights (and obligations) than permanent residents
(who are still classified as aliens in this respect). Lawful permanent
residents generally do not have the right to vote, the right to be
elected in federal and state elections (although even naturalized
citizens cannot be elected President under Article II of the
Constitution), the ability to bring family members to the United
States (permanent residents are allowed to sponsor certain family
members, but this is often not practical due to long approval
delays), or eligibility for federal government jobs. Male
permanent residents between the ages of 18 and 25 are subject to
registering in the Selective Service System. Permanent residents who
reside in the
United States must pay taxes on their worldwide income
(this includes filing annual U.S. income tax returns), like U.S.
Types of immigration
U.S. immigration legislation in the Immigration and Nationality
Act (INA) stipulates that a person may obtain permanent resident
status primarily through the course of the following proceedings:
immigration through a family member
immigration through employment
immigration through investment (from 0.5 to 1 million US dollars)
immigration through the Diversity Lottery
immigration through refugee or asylum status
immigration through "The Registry" provisions of the Immigration and
immigration approved by the Director of Central Intelligence.
Immigration eligibility and quotas
Immigrant visa backlog
Immediate relative (spouse, minor children, and parents) of U.S.
(A U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years of age in order to sponsor
his or her parents.)
No numerical limita
Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S.
Spouse and minor children (under 21 year old) of lawful permanent
Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of permanent
Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens
Priority workers. There are three sub-groups: 1. Foreign nationals
with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or
athletics; 2. Foreign nationals that are outstanding professors or
researchers with at least three years' experience in teaching or
research and who are recognized internationally; 3. Foreign nationals
that are managers and executives subject to international transfer to
the United States.
Professionals holding advanced degrees (Ph.D., master's degree, or at
least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience) or
persons of exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business
Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers
3 months – 11 yearsb
Certain special immigrants: ministers, religious workers, current or
former U.S. government workers, etc.
Diversity immigrant (DV)
No numerical limit
a 300,000–500,000 immediate relatives admitted annually.
b No more than 7 percent of the visas may be issued to natives of any
one country. Currently, individuals from China (mainland), India,
Mexico and the Philippines are subject to per-country quotas in most
of the categories, and the waiting time may take longer (additional
c Spouse and minor children of the IR/F4/EB applicants, DV winners,
asylums & refugees may apply for immigrant visa adjudication with
their spouse or parent. The quotas include not only the principal
applicants but also their nuclear family members.
See also: Form I-140
The whole process may take several years, depending on the type of
immigrant category and the country of chargeability. An immigrant
usually has to go through a three-step process to get permanent
Immigrant petition (
Form I-140 or Form I-130) – in the first
USCIS approves the immigrant petition by a qualifying relative,
an employer, or in rare cases, such as with an investor visa, the
applicant himself. If a sibling is applying, she or he must have the
same parents as the applicant.
Immigrant visa availability – in the second step, unless the
applicant is an "immediate relative", an immigrant visa number through
the National Visa Center (NVC) of the
United States Department of
State (DOS) must be available. A visa number might not be immediately
available even if the
USCIS approves the petition, because the number
of immigrant visa numbers is limited every year by quotas set in the
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). There are also certain
additional limitations by country of chargeability. Thus, most
immigrants will be placed on lengthy waiting lists. Those immigrants
who are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen (spouses and children
under 21 years of age, and parents of a U.S. citizen who is 21 years
of age or older) are not subject to these quotas and may proceed to
the next step immediately (since they qualify for the IR immigrant
Immigrant visa adjudication – in the third step, when an immigrant
visa number becomes available, the applicant must either apply with
USCIS to adjust their current status to permanent resident status or
apply with the DOS for an immigrant visa at the nearest U.S. consulate
before being allowed to come to the United States.
Adjustment of status (AOS) –
Adjustment of status is for when the
immigrant is in the
United States and entered the U.S. legally. Except
for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the immigrant must also be
in legal status at the time of applying for adjustment of status. For
immediate relatives and other relative categories whose visa numbers
are current, adjustment of status can be filed for at the same time
with the petition (step 1 above).
Adjustment of status is submitted to
USCIS via form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or
Adjust Status. The
USCIS conducts a series of background checks
(including fingerprinting for FBI criminal background check and name
checks) and makes a decision on the application. Once the adjustment
of status application is accepted, the alien is allowed to stay in the
United States even if the original period of authorized stay on the
Form I-94 is expired, but he/she is generally not allowed to leave the
country until the application is approved, or the application will be
abandoned. If the alien has to leave the
United States during this
time, he/she can apply for travel documents at the
USCIS with form
I-131, also called Advance parole. If there is a potential risk
that the applicant's work permit (visa) will expire or become invalid
(laid off by the employer and visa sponsor) or the applicant wants to
start working in the United States, while he/she is waiting for the
decision about his/her application to change status, he/she can file
form I-765, to get Employment Authorization Documents (also called
EAD) and be able to continue or start working legally in the United
States. In some cases, the applicant will be interviewed at a
USCIS office, especially if it is a marriage-based adjustment from a
K-1 visa, in which case both spouses (the US citizen and the
applicant) will be interviewed by the USCIS. If the application is
approved, the alien becomes an LPR, and the actual green card is
mailed to the alien's last known mailing address.
Consular processing – This is the process if the immigrant is
outside the United States, or is ineligible for AOS. It still requires
the immigrant visa petition to be first completed and approved. The
applicant may make an appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate in
his/her home country, where a consular officer adjudicates the case.
If the case is approved, an immigrant visa is issued by the U.S.
embassy or consulate. The visa entitles the holder to travel to the
United States as an immigrant. At the port of entry, the immigrant
visa holder immediately becomes a permanent resident, and is processed
for a permanent resident card and receives an I-551 stamp in his/her
passport. The permanent resident card is mailed to his/her U.S.
address within several weeks.
An applicant (alien) in the
United States can obtain two permits while
the case is pending after a certain stage is passed in green card
processing (filing of I-485).
The first is a temporary work permit known as the Employment
Authorization Document (EAD), which allows the alien to take
employment in the United States.
The second is a temporary travel document, advance parole, which
allows the alien to re-enter the United States. Both permits confer
benefits that are independent of any existing status granted to the
alien. For example, the alien might already have permission to work in
United States under an H-1B visa.
Application process for family-sponsored visa for both parents and for
U.S. citizens may sponsor for permanent residence in the United States
the following relatives:
Spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21;
Parents (once the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old);
Unmarried children over the age of 21 (called "sons and daughters");
Married sons and daughters;
Brothers and sisters (once the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old).
U.S. permanent residents may sponsor for permanent residence in the
United States the following relatives:
Spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21;
Unmarried children over the age of 21 (called "sons and daughters");
The Department of State's "Visa Bulletin," issued every month, gives
the priority date for those petition beneficiaries currently entitled
to apply for immigrant status through immigrant visas or adjustment of
status. There is no annual quota for the spouses, unmarried
children, and parents of U.S. citizens, so there is no waiting period
for these applicants—just the required processing time. However, all
other family-based categories have significant backlogs, even with a
U.S. citizen petitioner.
Regardless of whether the family member being sponsored is located in
United States (and therefore likely to be applying for adjustment
of status) or outside the
United States (in which case the immigrant
visa is the likely option), the process begins with the filing of an
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. The form and instructions can be
found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Required later in the process will be additional biographic data
regarding the beneficiary (the person being sponsored) and a medical
examination. Additional documents, such as police certificates, may be
required depending on whether immigrant visa (consular processing) or
adjustment of status is being utilized. In the case of consular
processing outside the
United States one should ensure one is
up-to-date with the particular practices of the relevant US embassy or
consulate. All petitioners must supply the I-864 Affidavit of
Green-card holders and families
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Green-card holders married to non-U.S. citizens are able to legally
bring their spouses and minor children to join them in the USA,
but must wait for their priority date to become current. The foreign
spouse of a green-card holder must wait for approval of an "immigrant
visa" from the State Department before entering the United States. Due
to numerical limitation on the number of these visas, the wait time
for approval may be months or years. In the interim, the spouse cannot
be legally present in the United States, unless he or she secures a
visa by some other means. Green-card holders may opt to wait to become
U.S. citizens, and only then sponsor their spouses and children, as
the process is much faster for U.S. citizens. However, many green-card
holders can choose to apply for the spouse or children and update
their application after becoming a U.S. citizen.
The issue of U.S. green-card holders separated from their families for
years is not a new problem. A mechanism to unite families of
green-card holders was created by the LIFE Act by the introduction of
a "V visa", signed into law by President Clinton. The law expired on
December 31, 2000, and V visas are no longer available. From time to
time, bills are introduced in Congress to reinstate V visas, but so
far none have been successful.
Improving the application process in obtaining a green card
The most common challenges that
USCIS faces in providing services in
the green card process are: (1) the length of the application and
approval process, and (2) the quotas of green cards granted. USCIS
tries to shorten the time qualified applicants wait to receive
Challenges with processing time of application
Under the current system, immediate family members (spouse, child, and
dependent mother and father), have priority status for green cards and
generally wait 6 months to a year to have their green card application
approved. For non-immediate family members, the process may take up to
10 years. Paperwork is processed on a first-come,
first-served basis, so new applications may go untouched for several
months. To address the issue of slow processing times,
USCIS has made
a policy allowing applicants to submit the I-130 and I-485 forms at
the same time. This has reduced the processing time. Another delay in
the process comes when applications have mistakes. In these cases
papers are sent back to the applicant, further delaying the process.
Currently the largest issue creating long wait times is not processing
time, but rather immigrant visa quotas set by Congress.
Quota system challenges
Long wait times are a symptom of another issue—quotas preventing
immigrants from receiving immigrant visas. Georgia's Augusta Chronicle
in 2006 stated that an estimated two million people are on waiting
lists in anticipation to become legal and permanent residents of the
United States. Immigrants need visas to get off of these waiting
lists, and Congress would need to change immigration law in order to
accommodate them with legal status.
The number of green cards that can be granted to family-based
applicants depends on what preference category they fall under. An
unlimited number of immediate relatives can receive green cards
because there is no quota for that category. Family members who fall
under the other various preference categories have fixed quotas,
however the number of visas issued from each category may vary because
unused visas from one category may rollover into another category.
Application process for employment-based visa
Many immigrants opt for this route, which typically requires an
employer to "sponsor" (i.e. to petition before USCIS) the immigrant
(known as the alien beneficiary) through a presumed future job (in
some special categories, the applicant may apply on his/her behalf
without a sponsor). The three-step process outlined above is described
here in more detail for employment-based immigration applications.
After the process is complete, the alien is expected to take the
certified job offered by the employer to substantiate his or her
immigrant status, since the application ultimately rests on the
alien's employment with that company in that particular position.
Immigrant petition – the first step includes the pre-requisite labor
certification upon which the actual petition will reside.
Labor certification – the employer must legally prove that it has a
need to hire an alien for a specific position and that there is no
minimally qualified U.S. citizen or LPR available to fill that
position, hence the reason for hiring the alien. Some of the
requirements to prove this situation include: proof of advertising for
the specific position; skill requirements particular to the job;
verification of the prevailing wage for a position; and the employer's
ability to pay. This is currently done through an electronic system
known as PERM. The date when the labor certification application
is filed becomes the applicant's priority date. In some cases, for
highly skilled foreign nationals (EB1 and EB2 National Interest
Waiver, e.g. researchers, athletes, artists or business executives)
and "Schedule A" labor (nurses and physical therapists), this step
is waived. This step is processed by the
United States Department of
Labor (DOL). The labor certification is valid for 6 months from the
time it is approved.
Immigrant petition – the employer applies on the alien's behalf to
obtain a visa number. The application is form I-140, Immigrant
Petition for Alien Worker, and it is processed by the USCIS. There
are several EB (employment-based) immigrant categories (i.e. EB1-EA,
EB2-NIW, EB5) under which the alien may apply, with progressively
stricter requirements, but often shorter waiting times. Many of the
applications are processed under the EB3 category. Currently, this
process takes up to 6 months. Many of the EB categories allow
expedited processing of this stage, known as "premium processing".
Immigrant visa availability. When the immigrant petition is approved
by the USCIS, the petition is forwarded to the NVC for visa
allocation. Currently this step centers around the priority date
Priority date – the visa becomes available when the applicant's
priority date is earlier than the cutoff date announced on the DOS's
Visa Bulletin or when the immigrant visa category the applicant is
assigned to is announced as "current". A "current" designation
indicates that visa numbers are available to all applicants in the
corresponding immigrant category. Petitions with priority dates
earlier than the cutoff date are expected to have visas available,
therefore those applicants are eligible for final adjudication. When
the NVC determines that a visa number could be available for a
particular immigrant petition, a visa is tentatively allocated to the
applicant. The NVC will send a letter stating that the applicant may
be eligible for adjustment of status, and requiring the applicant to
choose either to adjust status with the
USCIS directly, or apply at
the U.S. consulate abroad. This waiting process determines when the
applicant can expect the immigration case to be adjudicated. Due to
quotas imposed on EB visa categories, there are more approved
immigrant petitions than visas available under INA. High demand for
visas has created a backlog of approved but unadjudicated cases. In
addition, due to processing inefficiencies throughout DOS and USCIS
systems, not all visas available under the quota system in a given
year were allocated to applicants by the DOS. Since there is no quota
carry-over to the next fiscal year, for several years visa quotas have
not been fully used, thus adding to the visa backlog.
Immigrant visa adjudication. When the NVC determines that an immigrant
visa is available, the case can be adjudicated. If the alien is
already in the USA, that alien has a choice to finalize the green card
process via adjustment of status in the USA, or via consular
processing abroad. If the alien is outside of the USA he/she can only
apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. consulate. The
USCIS does not
allow an alien to pursue consular processing and AOS simultaneously.
Prior to filing the form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) it is required
that the applicant have a medical examination performed by a
USCIS-approved civil surgeon. The examination includes a blood test
and specific immunizations, unless the applicant provides proof that
the required immunizations were already done elsewhere. The civil
surgeon hands the applicant a sealed envelope containing a completed
form I-693, which must be included unopened with the I-485
application. (The cited reference also states that the February
25, 2010 edition of the Form I-693 reflects that an individual should
no longer be tested for HIV infection.)
Adjustment of status (AOS) – after the alien has a labor
certification and has been provisionally allocated a visa number, the
final step is to change his or her status to permanent residency.
Adjustment of status is submitted to
USCIS via form I-485, Application
to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If an immigrant visa
number is available, the
USCIS will allow "concurrent filing": it will
accept forms I-140 and I-485 submitted in the same package or will
accept form I-485 even before the approval of the I-140.
Consular processing – this is an alternative to AOS, but still
requires the immigrant visa petition to be completed. In the past
(pre-2005), this process was somewhat faster than applying for AOS, so
was sometimes used to circumvent long backlogs (of over two years in
some cases). However, due to recent efficiency improvements by the
USCIS, it is not clear whether applying via consular processing is
faster than the regular AOS process. Consular processing is also
thought to be riskier since there is no or very little recourse for
appeal if the officer denies the application.
Green card lottery
Main article: Diversity Immigrant Visa
Each year, around 50,000 immigrant visas are made available through
the Diversity Visa (DV) program, also known as the Green Card Lottery
to people who were born in countries with low rates of immigration to
United States (fewer than 50,000 immigrants in the past five
years). Applicants can only qualify by country of chargeability, not
by citizenship. Anyone who is selected under this lottery will be
given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence. They can also
file for their spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21.
If permanent residence is granted, the winner (and his/her family, if
applicable) receives an immigrant visa in their passport(s) that has
to be "activated" within six months of issuance at any port of entry
to the United States. If already in the U.S. adjustment of status may
be pursued. The new immigrant receives a stamp on the visa as proof of
lawful admittance to the United States, and the individual is now
authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. Finally,
the actual "green card" typically arrives by mail within a few months.
Over 6.4 million applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2008 Diversity
Visa Lottery were submitted. This is an increase from the more than
5.5 million applications submitted in the 2007 Diversity Visa Lottery.
Taking into account dependents, there are more than 10 million
participants in the 2008 Diversity Visa Lottery. Most of the
applications were from Africa and Asia: 41 percent of the total came
from Africa, 38 percent from Asia, 19 percent coming from Europe, and
two percent from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
The largest number of applicants came from
Bangladesh (more than 1.7
million applicants), followed by
Nigeria (684,735) and Ukraine
Normally somewhat fewer than 100,000 applicants will be announced as
winners to ensure that all 50,000 green cards will be issued.
For the fiscal year 2008 there were 5,983 Bangladesh, 8,773 Nigerian
and 5,018 of the Ukrainian applications declared as winners. Of
these, there were finally used 2,286 of the
Bangladesh winner numbers,
3,425 of the Nigerian winner numbers and 1,914 of the Ukrainian winner
numbers to get a green card within the time limit. At the end, 46,633
were issued in FY 2008, 3,367 less than planned. Therefore, the
chances to become a winner in a lottery differs from the country of
origin for which you are filed for. It also differs from year to year.
Over 14.7 million applications for the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery
were submitted. This is an increase from the more than 2.7 million
applications submitted in the 2011 Diversity Visa Lottery. Taking into
account dependents, there are more than 19.6 million participants in
the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery. The largest number of applicants came
Bangladesh (more than 7.6 million applicants) followed by Nigeria
Crime: green card lottery scam
There is a growing number of fraudulent green card lottery scams, in
which false agents take money from applicants by promising to submit
application forms for them. Most agents are not working for the
distribution service. Some claim that they can increase the chance of
winning the lottery. This is not true; in fact, they may delay or not
submit the application. Likewise, some claim to provide to winners
free airline tickets or other benefits, such as submissions in future
years or cash funds. There is no way to guarantee their claims, and
there are numerous nefarious reasons for them not to fulfill their
promises. Applicants are advised to use only official U.S. government
websites, in which the
URL ends in .gov.
Green card lottery e-mail fraud
Other fraud perpetrators will e-mail potential victims posing as State
Department or other government officials with requests to wire or
transfer money online as part of a "processing fee." These fraudulent
e-mails are designed to steal money from unsuspecting victims. The
senders often use phony e-mail addresses and logos designed to make
them look more like official government correspondence. One easy way
to tell that an email is a fraud is that it does not end with a
".gov". One particularly common fraud email asks potential victims to
wire money via Western Union to an individual (the name varies) at the
following address in the United Kingdom: 24 Grosvenor Square, London.
These emails come from a variety of email addresses designed to
impersonate the U.S. State Department. The U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services blog has published information on this email scam
and how to report fraudulent emails to the authorities.
The Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security and
Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings about this type of
fraud or similar business practices.
The "registry" is a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act
which allows a person who has previously entered the United States
illegally to obtain legal permanent residence simply on the basis of
having de facto resided in the country over a long time. To avail
himself of the benefit of this provision, the immigrant has to prove
that he has continuously resided since before the stipulated "registry
The concept of "registry" was first added to the INA in 1929, with the
registry date set to June 3, 1921. Since then, the registry date has
been adjusted several times, being set to July 1, 1924; June 28, 1940;
and June 30, 1948. The most recent adjustment to the registry date
came with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, when it was
set to January 1, 1972. A number of bills have been introduced in
Congress since then to further alter the registry date, but they have
not been passed.
Conditional permanent residence
As part of immigration reform under the Immigration Reform and Control
Act of 1986 (IRCA), as well as further reform enacted in the Illegal
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA),
persons who are eligible and properly apply for permanent residence
based on either a recent marriage to a U.S. citizen or as an investor
are granted permanent residence only on a conditional basis, for two
years. An exception to this rule is the case of a U.S. citizen legally
sponsoring a spouse in which the marriage at the time of the
adjustment of status (I-485) is more than two years old. In this case,
the conditional status is waived and a 10-year Permanent Resident Card
is issued upon
USCIS approval of the case. A permanent resident under
the conditional clause may receive an I-551 stamp as well as a
Permanent Resident Card. The expiration date of the conditional period
is two years from the approval date. The immigrant visa category is CR
When this two-year conditional period is over, the permanent residence
automatically expires and the applicant is subject to deportation and
removal unless, up to 90 days before the conditional residence
expires, the applicant must file form I-751 Petition to Remove
Conditions on Residence (if conditional permanent residence was
obtained through marriage) or form I-829 Petition by Entrepreneur to
Remove Conditions (if conditional permanent residence was obtained
through investment) with
USCIS to have the conditions removed. Once
the application is received, permanent residence is extended in 1-year
intervals until the request to remove conditions is approved or
denied. For conditional permanent residence obtained through marriage,
both spouses must sign the form I-751; if the spouses are divorced, it
is possible to get a waiver of the other spouse's signing requirement,
if it can be proved that the marriage was bona fide.
USCIS requires that the application for the removal of conditions
provide both general and specific supporting evidence that the basis
on which the applicant obtained conditional permanent residence was
not fraudulent. For an application based on marriage, birth
certificates of children, joint financial statements, and letters from
employers, friends and relatives are some types of evidence that may
be accepted. That is to ensure that the marriage was in good faith
and not a fraudulent marriage of convenience with a sole intention of
obtaining a green card. A follow-up interview with an immigration
officer is sometimes required but may be waived if the submitted
evidence is sufficient. Both the spouses must usually attend the
The applicant receives an I-551 stamp in their foreign passport upon
approval of their case. The applicant is then free from the
conditional requirement once the application is approved. The
applicant's new Permanent Resident Card arrives via mail to their
residence several weeks to several months later and replaces the old
two-year conditional residence card. The new card must be renewed
after 10 years, but permanent resident status is now granted for an
indefinite term if residence conditions are satisfied at all times.
USCIS may request to renew the card earlier because of security
enhancements of the card or as a part of a revalidation campaign to
exclude counterfeit green cards from circulation.
It is important to note that the two-year conditional residence period
counts toward satisfying a residency requirement for U.S.
naturalization, and other purposes. Application for the removal of
conditions must be adjudicated before a separate naturalization
application could be reviewed by
USCIS on its own merits.
Differences between permanent residents and conditional permanent
Conditional permanent residents have all of the equal "rights,
privileges, responsibilities and duties which apply to all other
lawful permanent residents."
The only difference is the requirement to satisfy the conditions (such
as showing marriage status or satisfying entrepreneur requirements)
before the two-year period ends.
Abandonment or loss of permanent residence status
A green-card holder may abandon permanent residence by filing form
I-407, with the green card, at a U.S. Embassy.
Under certain conditions, permanent residence status can be lost
involuntarily. This includes committing a criminal act that makes
a person removable from the United States. A person might also be
found to have abandoned his/her status if he or she moves to another
country to live there permanently, stays outside the USA for more than
365 days (without getting a re-entry permit before leaving), or
does not file an income tax return on their worldwide income.
Permanent resident status can also be lost if it is found that the
application or grounds for obtaining permanent residence was
fraudulent. The failure to renew the permanent resident card does not
result in the loss of status, except in the case of conditional
permanent residents as noted above. Nevertheless, it is still a good
idea to renew the green card on time because it also acts as a work
permit and travel permit (advance parole), but if the green card is
renewed late, there is no penalty or extra fee to pay.
A person who loses permanent residence status is immediately removable
United States and must leave the country as soon as possible
or face deportation and removal. In some cases the person may be
banned from entering the country for three or seven years, or even
Tax costs of green card relinquishment
Due to the Heart Act foreign workers who have owned a green card
in eight of the last 15 years and choose to relinquish it will be
subject to the expatriation tax, which taxes unrealized gains above
$600,000, anywhere in the world. However this will only apply to those
people who have a federal tax liability greater than $139,000 a year
or have a worth of more than $2 million or have failed to certify to
the IRS that they have been in compliance with U.S. federal tax
obligations for the past five years.
If the green card is not relinquished then the holder is subject to
double taxation when living or working outside of the United States,
whether or not within their home nation, although double taxation may
be mitigated by foreign tax credits.
Visa-free travel for green-card holders
Note: This list excludes countries that allow visa-free travel with
valid U.S. visas (for example, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic,
Mexico, Panama) Also note that the Green Card holder might
already have visa-free access to many destinations by virtue of the
nationality already held.
Bahamas: 30 days
Belize: permanent residents of the USA can obtain a visa on arrival,
provided prior approval is obtained from Belizean Immigration (fee USD
50). Visitors may also have to pay a repatriation fee.
British Virgin Islands: 1 month
Turks and Caicos Islands: 30 days
Canada: 6 months (eTA required from 15 Mar 2016 for travel by
Caribbean Netherlands (Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire, Aruba, Sint
Maarten or Curaçao): 30 days
Costa Rica: 30 days
Cayman Islands: 30 days
Dominican Republic: 30 days
Jamaica: 6 months
Mexico: 180 days
Serbia: 90 days
Montenegro: 7 days
Taiwan: 30 days max. for holders of a ROC (Taiwan) Business and
Academic Travel Card, issued by Republic of China (Taiwan).
Albania: 6 months
Kosovo: 15 days
Blue Card (European Union)
Canada Permanent Resident Card
Indefinite leave to remain, a British residence status equivalent to
the Canada Permanent Resident Card
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