What is a Green Card, and Who Needs One?

Green cards allow foreign nationals to enter the United States to live and work on a permanent basis. Below, our Tennessee immigration lawyer outlines who needs one.

Green cards in the United States are also known as Lawful Permanent Resident Cards or Form I-551. Green card holders in the country have the right to live and work in the United States and have many of the same rights as United States citizens. Acquiring a green card is also a big step in the holder becoming a citizen themselves.

Who Needs a Green Card?

Any foreign national who wishes to enter the United States permanently to live and work needs a green card. While legitimate work visas are available, green cards have many benefits over these. Temporary (non-immigrant) employment visas often come with many hurdles, such as strict deadlines and additional costs. Work visas also do not provide the security of a green card, as there is always the risk of running into an issue and losing it. Those with a green card do not face this same concern. Green card holders (permanent residents) can only lose their status for specific reasons.

There are many different types of green cards, but the two most common are family-based and employment-based green cards. Immediate family members who have a relative that is a United States citizen or permanent resident may apply for a family-based green card. If successful, they can then move to the United States to be with their family.

People who wish to enter the country for work purposes can apply for an employment-based green card. In some cases, they can also apply to bring their spouses and children into the country, as well. There are many different types of employment-based green cards depending on the type of work the applicant performs.

Green Cards as Identification

Green card holders are afforded many privileges and rights, but they also have the obligation to carry their green card on them at all times. The actual green card proves that you are a lawful permanent resident, and green card holders use it when applying to obtain an American driver’s license, open a bank account, or apply for a job.

Carrying your green card on you is not only practical, but you also have a legal obligation to have it on you at all times. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, if you are asked by authorities for your green card and cannot produce it, you may be fined as much as $100. In some cases, a person could even face up to 30 days in jail.

Replacing a Green Card

Most green cards are valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. Of course, the green card is surrendered when a permanent resident naturalizes and becomes a U.S. citizen. If a green card is lost, damaged, or destroyed, or if it is expiring, our immigration attorneys can help permanent residents apply for a replacement green card. We are happy to provide clients letters of proof that a green card renewal or replacement application is ongoing.

Permanent residents typically need their green card and valid passport to travel. It is important to have a valid green card in case a permanent resident needs to travel. In the event emergency travel is needed, an attorney can help apply for an “ADIT stamp” as temporary proof of permanent residence.

Conditional residents (those with green cards valid for only two years) obtained their residency through a marriage that was less than two years old at the time of their approval for residency or through an investment. They must apply to remove the conditions on their residency to become full permanent residents.

Our Immigration Lawyers in Tennessee Can Help You Acquire a Green Card

If you want to work or live in the United States, our Tennessee immigration lawyers at Ozment Law will guide you through every step of the process. We can determine if you are eligible for a green card, advise on the documents to collect, and give you the best chance of success with your application. Call us now at 615-321-8888 or fill out our intake form to schedule a consultation.