Green Card or Permanent Resident Card is a proof of your permanent resident status in the United States. It is a valid identification document to prove that you are eligible to live and work in the U.S. Some Green Cards contain no expiration date, while most are valid for ten years. A conditional Green Card is valid only for two years. It is important to keep your Permanent Resident Card up-to-date. It is frequently said that Green Cards give all the benefits of U.S. citizenship except the right to vote and hold public office.
If you are a permanent resident of the United States your status as a permanent resident does not expire, but your Green Card will expire in every ten years. When the expiration date on your card is six months away, you can either renew your Green Card or apply for U.S. citizenship. The time period you have to wait before applying for U.S. citizenship ranges between three to five years.
If you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, you can submit the U.S. citizenship application instead of renewing your Green Card. You can apply for U.S. citizenship by filing Form N-400. It will probably take you over a year to get U.S. citizenship. If you change your job or travel, it is recommended that you renew your card.
When can I apply for U.S. Citizenship?
Generally you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, if you have been a Permanent Resident for at least five years. But there is an exception for asylees, refugees and those married to U.S. Citizens.
- If you have been married to and living with your U.S. citizen spouse, you can apply for U.S. citizenship after 3 years of being a Permanent Resident.
- If you are an asylee, you can apply for U.S. citizenship four years after your approval for permanent residence
- If you are a refugee, you can apply for U.S. citizenship five years after your entry to the U.S. no matter when you became a permanent resident.
The other conditions that should be met before you can apply for U.S. citizenship is, you should have good moral character when you had the Green Card and you should have lived in the U.S. for most of the time. When you become a U.S. citizen, you are allowed to petition for your family members to immigrate to the United States.
If you are not eligible for U.S. citizenship, then you have to renew your Green Card by filing Form I-90. If you are a conditional resident and your status is expiring do not file Form I-90. Conditional Permanent Residents are required to file a petition to remove conditions within 90 days of the expiration date. If you are a conditional resident based on marriage, you are required to file Form I-751. If your conditional status is based on being an investor or entrepreneur, you must file Form I-829.
There are some limitations for a Permanent resident to travel outside U.S. and return. A reentry permit will help a Permanent resident to enter into U.S. without any problem. A reentry permit is used to determine that you did not intend to abandon
your status, and it allows you for admission into the United States after traveling abroad for 2 years without having to obtain
a returning resident visa. Reentry permits are normally valid for 2 years from the date of issuance.
You need to file the Form I-131 with the Reentry permit fees to obtain a reentry permit. It is recommended that you file the I-131 form well in advance of your planned trip. Ensure that you file the I-131 form at least 60 days before your intended travel. You need to be physically present in the United States to file this form. You cannot file the I-131 form while you are outside U.S.
You do not need to file the I-131 form and get a reentry permit if you will be outside the United States for less than 1 year. If you have been outside the United States for less than 1 year, you may use your Permanent Resident Card as your travel document.
Reentry permit fees:
The Reentry permit fees is $385. It includes an application fee of $305 and a biometric fee of $80. You can pay the Reentry permit fee with a personal check, money order, or cashier’s check. Do not send cash. The check or money order must be drawn on a bank or other financial institution in the United States and must be payable in U.S. currency.
If you are filing the I-131 form at one of the USCIS Lockbox facilities and would like to receive an e-mail and/or text message that your application has been accepted, then complete a Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance and clip it to the first page of your application.
The I-131 form will not be approved in the following cases:
- If you have already been issued a reentry permit and it is still valid.
- If the federal register contains a notice that prohibits the issuance of reentry permit for travel to the area where you intend to go.
Checklist of your Reentry permit application package:
- The I-131 form
- The G-1145 form (optional)
- Supporting documents
- Reentry permit fees
Assemble your application package in an orderly manner. Using a paper-clip, attach the Reentry permit fees to the first page of your I-131 form. If you do not send the Reentry permit fees along with your application, your application will be returned. Place your supporting documents under your application. Mail your application by certified mail, certified mail or courier service and request a return receipt.
Within 30 days of submitting your application to USCIS, you can expect to receive a Form I-797 Receipt Notice. This Notice is your confirmation that the USCIS has received your application and accepted it for processing. After you receive the Receipt Notice, you will receive an Appointment Notice requesting your appearance at your local Application Support Center to have your fingerprints taken.