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What is a Green Card?
A green card, also referred to as U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR), gives permission to an alien to permanently live and be employed in the U.S. A green card allows them to also apply for citizenship at a later date after a certain number of years of residency. Every alien 18 and over is always required to carry a valid certificate of registration (i.e. a green card) with them. A green card remains effective for a maximum of 10 years and should be renewed within 6 months of expiration.
Although green cards have expiration dates, a person’s Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) does not expire unless he or she breaks immigration laws or voluntarily gives up LPR status. The physical green card provides evidence of your lawful permanent resident status, but carrying a green card that is expired will make it challenging to prove your LPR status, and may influence your ability to benefit from the rights linked to LPR status.
Who Can Apply For a Green Card?
A person can acquire a green card through one of the following:
1. Family Sponsorship
A sponsor is one who can prove that he or she will support the alien financially by filing an Affidavit of Support
If you wish to sponsor an alien and to file an Affidavit of Support, you must meet the following criteria:
- you must be at least 18 years of age
- you must have U.S. citizenship or be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
- you must live in the U.S.
- you must possess a household income equivalent or above 125% of the level of poverty for your household size (household size includes you, your dependents, any family living with you, and the immigrant you wish to sponsor
You may be eligible for a green card through employment.
Receiving a green card based on refugee or asylum status generally requires proof of extreme hardship in the alien’s home country.
Green Card Application Process
Applying for a green card and getting it authorized by the BCIS has several key steps:
- get a family member who is a U.S. citizen or an employer to sponsor you
- file your application with the U.S. consulate office or embassy of the person’s native country
- the BCIS will verify admissibility based on factors such as mental or physical disorders or conviction of criminal activity in the past
Once you have filed your green card application, you may legally wait in the U.S. for a response and even have the ability to file a work permit.
Green Card Renewal
Those with Lawful Permanent Resident Status who have green cards that have expired or will expire in the next 6 months should renew their green card by filing USCIS form I-90. However, a renewal form cannot be filed more than 6 months prior to expiration. If you fail to renew your green card under these circumstances, you may face misdemeanor charges such as fees or even imprisonment. If your green card has been lost, stolen, or destroyed, however, you must file for replacement of a green card as opposed to green card renewal.
If you or a loved one are seeking to obtain a green card or have questions regarding the process and eligibility, contact a Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Immigration Attorney today for a free case consultation.
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