Green Cards

Getting a Green Card

A green card, or permanent resident card, is an important step toward becoming a United States citizen. A green card and confers permanent resident status to an immigrant who is not yet a U.S. citizen. The green card puts you under the category of Lawful Permanent Resident. Obeying the rules and maintaining your green card for five years allows you to become eligible to apply for American citizenship. If you are married to an American citizen, you can apply after three years as a green card holder.

A green card also enables you to work legally in the United States without a visa, makes you eligible for education and healthcare benefits, and gives you the ability to travel into and out of the U.S. with fewer restrictions. To maintain your green card, you must meet certain conditions, one being that you cannot stay outside the United States for more than 12 months in a row.

As Virginia immigration lawyers, the Alvarez Law Firm can guide you through the green card process and answer your questions regarding immigration issues in Virginia. We can also explain the short-term work permit (Employment Authorization Document), another way to obtain a green card.

The Process for Obtaining a Green Card

Once United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approves an immigrant petition by a qualified sponsor you for a green card, you must wait for an “immigrant visa number” to become available. There is a quota that sets the number of immigrant visa numbers and there are limits to the number of visas issued to different countries.

After an immigrant visa number is made available, you must apply with USCIS to change your status to permanent resident status or apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate before entering the United States. The USCIS may conduct a background check and, in the case of a U.S. citizen’s marriage to a foreign national, the pair might be interviewed by USCIS.

Consular processing is an alternative method for obtaining a green card. This is for applicants outside the United States, who can make an appointment at the U.S. embassy in his or her country. A consular officer can determine whether or not to approve an immigrant visa; this allows applicants to travel to the United States and receive a permanent resident card at the port of entry.

Given the complexity of immigration laws and application processes, we recommend that people residing in Virginia contact The Alvarez Law Firm for legal advice and guidance about immigration policy, work or family visas, or naturalization matters.