A green card is a commonly used term for a United States Permanent Resident Card. It is an official document issued by the U.S. government to foreign nationals (non-U.S. citizens) who are authorized to both work and reside in the United States. The card gets its name from its former color, which was green, although the design has changed over the years.

To obtain a green card, one must go through a lengthy and often complex process. There are numerous potential ways to obtain a green card. These include employment-based immigration, family-sponsored immigration, asylum status, refugee status, a diversity visa lottery program and more.

What are the benefits of a green card?

Holding a green card gives an individual the status of a lawful permanent resident (LPR), which is a single step below being a U.S. citizen. Green card holders enjoy many of the same rights and benefits as U.S. citizens, including the right to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, the ability to start their own businesses, access to educational opportunities and social benefits. They are also protected by U.S. laws and generally have the right to apply for citizenship after meeting certain eligibility criteria.

Does a green card expire?

Green cards do expire. The expiration date is typically printed on the card itself. Generally, green cards are valid for a period of ten years. If you are a permanent resident with a green card that is close to expiring or that already has, you will need to apply for a renewal to more effectively maintain your status.

It’s important to keep your green card up to date and renew it before it expires to avoid any issues with immigration authorities or re-entry into the United States if you travel abroad. To renew it, you must submit an Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90), along with fees and necessary documentation to support that application.

What do you need to do next?

Whether you are seeking a green card for the first time, trying to adjust your status or looking to replace a card that has already expired, you can see why it’s so important to know as much as possible about the legal process. Your future in the United States could hang in the balance, so you need to know exactly what legal steps to take to secure and/or maintain your status. Seeking legal guidance is always a good option in this regard.