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.
Green Card and Naturalization applicants needs to take the USCIS Biometrics for the purpose of Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background checks. Certain application like I-90, N-400, I-485, etc., requires USCIS Biometrics to be taken. In this case you need to submit the application with USCIS Biometrics fee.
After USCIS receives the application, they will send USCIS appointment notice with place, date and time for you to take the USCIS Biometrics. Once you receive the USCIS appointment notice make sure you read the instructions carefully. In certain areas, a van will come to take you to the finger printing locations, if the fingerprinting location is far from your area. Note that the USCIS appointment notice will tell you whether a van serves your area.
If additional documents are required, then USCIS appointment letter will specify the documents that you need to take with you for the USCIS Biometrics.
Take the USCIS appointment letter with you, when you go to take the USCIS Biometrics. Make sure you also take the additional documents that is specified the USCIS appointment letter. You must also take with you a photo identification document such as passport or national photo identification issued by your country, or driver’s license, or military photo identification, or state-issued photo identification card.
After you reach the USCIS Biometrics center with your USCIS appointment notice, you will be asked to fill a form. You must also indicate for what application the USCIS Biometrics is taken for eg., Form I-90, Form I-485, N-400 etc.,
Most of the fingerprinting center uses ink to take the fingerprint. However they might also take the fingerprint electronically eventually.
Once the finger print is taken, USCIS will send it to the FBI to check the criminal backgrounds. The FBI is very efficient and checks your case and sends it back to the USCIS in 3 to 4 weeks. In case if the fingerprint is not clear they will reject and send it back to the USCIS. Then USCIS will again schedule another appointment and send an USCIS appointment notice to you. You need to take the finger prints again. If FBI rejects because of quality of the fingerprints, then you don’t have to pay the fee for biometrics.
You can also check with the FBI whether it has checked for criminal backgrounds and sent it back to the USCIS. Note that USCIS will not reveal the results, whether the fingerprints was rejected or not. If the Federal Bureau of Investigation rejects your finger print twice then you have to get the police clearance from each place where you had lived in the past five years.
Generally USCIS Biometrics are considered good for fifteen months. If in case the application is not processed for fifteen months after you had taken the fingerprints, then USCIS may send another USCIS appointment asking you to take the fingerprints again.
Applicants for political aylee don’t have to pay the biometrics fee. Applicants who concurrently file I-485 based on an employment petition and Form I-765 will receive one USCIS appointment for biometrics. USCIS will take biometrics for both forms in one visit and the applicants need to pay only one biometric fee with the I-485.