Green Cards and Permanent Resident Status

Interviewer: Could you describe or define what a green card is?

Jeanne Morales: Green card is a slang term for a permanent resident card. A permanent resident is someone who has been given permission to reside permanently in the United States and they don’t have to have a visa. They have permission to be a resident but they are not a citizen. Quite frankly, the word permanent can be misleading because you can lose your permanent resident status. The term green card exists because back in the day the cards actually used to be green.

Interviewer: They are not green anymore?

Jeanne Morales: No, they have gone through several evolutions. Modern IDs have a data strip and are made out of hard plastic. They also have other types of security features. For the most recent card, they are using an awful lot of green ink in the logo but card itself is not green and it hasn’t been in decades.

Interviewer: Okay. How long do one of these kinds of cards last, these permanent resident cards or green cards?

Jeanne Morales: A permanent resident status will last until you get it taken away or you naturalize. Once you become a legal permanent resident, whether you have a card or not, you lose the card, or the card expires, your status does not change.  Your permanent resident status will not change until you naturalize or until the government takes your status away from you because you’ve done something wrong. Something similar to permanent residence status is something called a conditional resident.  A conditional resident occurs when someone marries a US citizen and they have been married for less than two years.  When the spouse who is a US citizen puts in for that person, he or she will receive a conditional resident card. This card is only good for two years. After two years, you must take additional steps in order to get the permanent resident one.

They want you to renew the modern version of the permanent resident card every 10 years, the card itself. It does have an expiration date on it, but a person’s status doesn’t change just the identification card has expired.

Interviewer: I didn’t know that. When someone is first applying, what type of documents do they need to have to obtain a green card?

Petitions and Sponsorship

Jeanne Morales: You can’t just apply for a green card. Someone has to petition for you. The broadest categories are family and employers. Employers are allowed to petition to bring workers in. The various ways that employers bring people in could lead to nothing more than a temporary work card or could lead to full permanent resident green card. Family members, if they are a US citizen, can sponsor someone for a green card.  Your spouse, your parents, or your child may sponsor you.

If your child is a US citizen and is over 21, they can sponsor you for a green card. Legal permanent residents can also sponsor spouses and children, unmarried children, but the process is a little different. It takes a lot longer than if the family is a US citizen. US citizens can also sponsor brothers and sisters.

Interviewer: Why does that take longer? Is it because of the quantity or is it because there is more red tape for children itself?

Jeanne Morales: When a US citizen is sponsoring a parent, a spouse, or a minor child, those individuals are categorized as immediate relatives. There is no waiting time for a visa number to become available. However; if a US citizen is sponsoring a brother or sister, an adult child, an adult married child, or if a permanent resident is sponsoring anybody, then there is a longer process to go through. In order to complete the sponsorship, a visa number has to become available. You are placed in a category with similar people like you. For example, you are placed in the brother a sibling of a US citizen category. Only a certain number of visas are issued for that particular category of person per year. You just have to wait until a visa number becomes available. Parents, spouses, and minor children of US citizens are immediate relatives and do not have to wait in one of those lines.