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.