A permanent resident is an individual who has a green card. Permanent resident cards are commonly called “green cards” because they were initially green. Green cards became so valuable that counterfeiting became a significant problem, and the US government began issuing them in different colors (e.g., pink, white, beige) in order to combat the fraud. Green cards became green again in 2010.
One thing hasn’t changed since the 1950s. Green cards are still in very high demand. There are several ways of getting a green card, but most of them entail a wait, sometimes a significant wait. The most common means of obtaining green cards are through family or through a job. A close family member or employer may petition for someone to be granted permanent residence status. Other less-common ways of receiving a green card include the green card lottery and political asylum.
As a permanent resident, you are entitled to work and live in the US. You can own a US business or corporation. Going to school in the US is cheaper and easier for you if you’re green card holder; you are eligible to apply for financial aid and frequently eligible for in-state tuition. Without permanent residence, leaving the US and then returning can present problems, but with a green card it’s usually not difficult. A green card holder can also petition for family members to come to the US.
Permanent residency is different than citizenship. Green card holders can’t vote in US elections. It’s possible for a permanent resident to lose to his or her resident rights in situations where citizens would be protected. Though it’s usually easy to travel outside the US and then return with a green card, there are many exceptions. Remaining outside the US for too long sometimes makes it impossible return. Committing crimes can also result in loss of permanent resident status as well as deportation from the U.S.
How does the permanent resident become a citizen? Usually, you’re eligible to apply for citizenship after you’ve been a green card holder for five years. If you are married to a US citizen, you can usually apply for citizenship after three years. Joining the military is the fastest route for a green card holder to become a citizen.
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