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Green Card Benefits - Warren Law Firm

Green Card Benefits

If you’re like many people, you’ve considered immigrating to the United States and eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. One step in the immigration process is obtaining a green card. A green card is a document that denotes your lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. – and generally, you must obtain a green card before you can apply for citizenship.

But what are green card benefits? What does a green card mean for the person who holds it?

Here’s what you need to know.

Your Guide to Green Card Benefits

Green Card BenefitsA green card enables you to begin down the path to eventual U.S. citizenship. Officially, a green card is known as a Permanent Resident Card – and a person who has one enjoys many benefits that people visiting the U.S. temporarily do not have. With a green card, you’re a lawful permanent resident, or LPR, of the United States.

If you have a green card, you can:

  • Apply for U.S. citizenship after a certain amount of time has passed
  • Travel in and out of the United States more easily than people with visas can
  • Sponsor certain relatives for visas or green cards
  • Spend less money on school admissions because you won’t have to attend as an international student
  • Make financial contributions to U.S. elections

In addition to enjoying these benefits, you’ll have a set of responsibilities to uphold. For example, you’ll have to:

  • Obey all federal, state and local laws
  • File your income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities
  • Support the U.S.’s democratic form of government and vow not to change it through illegal means
  • Register with the Selective Service if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25

Here’s a closer look at each.

Applying for Citizenship as a Green Card Benefit

When you have lawful permanent resident status in the United States, you can apply for citizenship after a certain amount of time has passed. The amount of time you must wait depends on your reason for having a green card in the first place. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, for example, you can apply for citizenship three years after your marriage; if you have a green card for any other reason, you must generally wait five years.

Having a green card is typically a must before you apply for U.S. citizenship. Most people can’t apply for citizenship if they haven’t had lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. for the prescribed amount of time.

Traveling in and out of the United States

Lawful permanent residents are generally free to travel in and out of the United States. Unlike visa holders, who must get specific permission to leave and return unless they want to apply for a new visa, LPRs with green cards can present a passport from their country of citizenship (or a refugee travel document) to travel to a foreign country. (You must also meet your destination country’s travel requirements.)

To return to the U.S. from abroad, you’ll have to present your passport and your valid, unexpired green card. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will review your green card and other identity documents upon your arrival. You do not need a visa to reenter the United States.

Some important things to know, however, include:

  • Short trips usually don’t affect your permanent resident status. However, if officials determine that you didn’t’ intend to make the U.S. your permanent home, you can be found to have “abandoned” your permanent resident status.
  • If you plan on being outside the United States for more than a year, it’s a good idea to apply for a reentry permit before you leave. If you get a reentry permit, you won’t have to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
  • If you remain outside the U.S. for more than two years, you may need to apply for a returning resident visa at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
  • Absences from the U.S. that last 6 months or more may disrupt your continuous residency, which is required for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. You should speak with an immigration attorney about how to maintain your green card benefits if you are traveling abroad while you have lawful permanent resident status.

Sponsoring Certain Relatives for Visas or Green Cards

If you have a green card, you may petition the U.S. government for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. You can petition for a spouse and unmarried children.

In order to help one of your immediate family members get a green card, you’ll have to file Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative. You’ll also need to provide proof of your own LPR status, as well as submit evidence of your qualifying relationship (such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce decrees).

Your family members will have to wait for a green card to become available to them. Sometimes the wait is quite long, and LPR status is granted in order of preference as follows:

  • Second preference (2A): Spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of green card holders.
  • Second preference (2B): Unmarried adult children (over the age of 21) of green card holders.

U.S. citizens are able to get a higher priority for their immediate relatives as well as sponsor additional relatives. If you become a U.S. citizen, you will also have access to these preference categories:

  • First preference: Unmarried, adult children (over the age of 21) of U.S. citizens.
  • Third preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

Spending Less Money on Tuition

As a lawful permanent resident of the United States, one of the green card benefits you’ll enjoy is being able to apply for resident tuition at colleges, universities and trade schools. If you’ve ever applied for higher education before, you know that international tuition can be quite expensive.

Making Financial Contributions to U.S. Elections

Another green card benefit is the ability to make financial contributions to U.S. elections. That means you can financially support a political candidate who shares your ideals and vision – and that’s something that visa holders cannot do.

If you later become a U.S. citizen, you’ll be able to vote.

Related: How to find the right immigration attorney

Your Guide to Green Card Benefits - Warren Law FirmGreen Card Benefits That Are Different From Citizenship Benefits

As a green card holder, you don’t get all the same benefits that U.S.-born and naturalized citizens get. If you have a green card, you can’t:

  • Vote in most elections
  • Have priority for sponsoring family members for green cards
  • Get citizenship for your children who were born outside the United States
  • Become an elected official
  • Travel abroad with a U.S. passport
  • Receive full protection from deportation

However, one of your green card benefits is the ability to apply for naturalization after you’ve had LPR status for a certain amount of time, so this is one step toward that goal.

Do You Need to Learn More About Green Card Benefits?

If you want to learn more about green card benefits, or if you’d like to learn how it may be possible for you to obtain a green card, we’re here to help. Call our office and schedule your free immigration consultation today – we’ll be glad to answer your questions.

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Over 20 years of experience in procuring visas for those in need, settling US immigration issues, defending against deportation and advising international businesses. 

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