Permanent Residence (Green Card) FAQs
A Permanent Resident Card or “Green Card” is an identification document that is issued to qualifying non U.S. citizens to establish their lawful permanent residence in the United States. Permanent resident cards are generally valid for ten (10) years. The validity date is listed on all “green cards” issued after 1989. All lawful permanent resident holders are required to apply for a renewal of their residency card prior to its expiration. It bears noting that permanent residents who have obtained permanent residency through a marriage of less than two (2) years or through substantial investment in a commercial entity in the U.S. are issued a conditional resident card that is valid for only two years. An individual with a conditional green card must apply for removal of conditions prior to the expiration of the conditional residency card. Upon removal of the conditional residence, the individual is issued a permanent residency card valid for ten (10) years.
A re-entry permit (travel permit) is needed for re-entry to the United States when a lawful permanent resident holder seeks to be out of the U.S. for greater than one year but less than two years. Re-entry permits are valid for a period of two (2) years from the date of issue. The re-entry permit is issued by the United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and must be obtained before the intended date of travel abroad. Lawful permanent residents travelling abroad must also be aware that absences from the U.S. for more than six (6) months at a time break the continuous presence requirement for naturalization/citizenship. It is also important to note that individuals who merely travel back and forth to the United States only to preserve his or her permanent residence status may be placed under a great deal of scrutiny by USCIS officers at the port of entry. Ultimately, this can result in revocation of one's permanent residency card.
Legal Permanent Residents in the U.S. who need to replace their lost, stolen or damaged Permanent Resident cards may file form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Individuals who are outside the U.S. should report the lost/stolen green card to the nearest police station and contact the nearest U.S. embassy to apply for the issuance of a transportation letter. The transportation letter is issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and allows the individual to re-enter the U.S. Upon arrival to the United States, the Permanent Resident is required to apply for replacement of the permanent residency card.
Q: I am currently in lawful permanent resident of the United States. May I sponsor my parents for a green card?
No, only U.S. citizens may sponsor their parents for lawful permanent residency. As a lawful permanent resident holder, one may sponsor a spouse, children under the age of 21 and unmarried children over the age of 21.
Q: I am currently in the United States on a F-1 student visa. My spouse is a lawful permanent resident holder and is in the process of sponsoring me as his wife. Do I need to continue to maintain my student visa?
Yes, it is critical that you maintain your student status or any other status until you are eligible to adjust your status. Although your spouse is eligible to sponsor you for lawful permanent residency, there are no priority dates immediately available for permanent resident holders sponsoring his or her spouse. In fact, it may take approximately 4-5 years for a date to be available (depending on which country you are from). During this time, you must maintain your own immigration status. The filing of the petition by your spouse does not allow you a visa or means of residing in the United States.