The American Dream that continues to attract immigrants to the United States starts with a valuable document: the permanent residence card, or green card.
The green card provides three important rights to immigrants who have it: to live permanently in the United States, to work at any legal work and enjoy the protection of all local, state and federal U.S. laws.
The following guide, based on official information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other government resources, offers a broad look at the different requirements for immigrants who want to obtain and maintain a green card.
How to obtain a Green Card
USCIS says applicants must complete at least two forms, an immigrant petition and a Green Card application (Form I-485).
But first they must qualify under at least one of the eight following categories:
▪ Special Immigrant
▪ Refugee or Asylee Status
▪ Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
▪ Victims of Abuse
Green Card for a family member
The U.S. government allows foreign nationals to obtain legal residence based on their relationship with relatives who are already U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
There are two categories of family relationships: immediate relatives, such as spouses and unmarried children; and other family members described by immigration authorities as “preferences immigrants.”
Green Card for fiancés and married spouses abroad
A foreign national who is engaged to marry a U.S. Citizens can a obtain K-1 Visa, which allows him or her to travel to the United States with a “nonimmigrant status” and marry their petitioner within 90 days after admission.
Both partners must be legally free to marry, and if they have been married before they are required to present proof of their divorce or the death of a previous spouse. If the relationship started and developed on the Internet, they must show proof that they met in person at least once in the previous two years.
If the couple were married abroad, the immigrant partner is not eligible for this visa but can be sponsored as an immediate relative through Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Once the petition is approved, the information will be sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence.
Medical examination for a Green Card
Every immigrant applying for lawful permanent resident status must undergo medical exams and vaccinations for immigration purposes to establish that there are no health issues that would deem the applicant inadmissible to the United States.
Immigrants must schedule their medical tests as close as possible to the filing date of the residence applications in order to make sure the results remain valid, the federal agency notes.
How to keep a green card
Permanent resident status can be lost due to inadvertent mistakes by green card holders, intentional abandonment of their status or deportation orders issued by an immigration judge.
USCIS considers abandonment to move to another country to live there permanently or living abroad for a prolonged period without evidence that the foreign stay is temporary.
Other factors that can negatively affect green card holders is failing to declare income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or claiming to be “nonimmigrants” in their tax returns.
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