What are the Benefits of a Green Card?

A green card allows a non-U.S. citizen to gain permanent residence in the United States. Many people from outside the United States want a green card ...

What are the Benefits of a Green Card?

This article summarizes the benefits of a green card and the responsibilities of being a lawful permanent resident.

You may already know that there are plenty of benefits of having a green card, and the most obvious of them is that it allows you to live permanently in the US. However, it is crucial to know what a green card actually offers and what it doesn't. Moreover, if you are planning to immigrate to the United States, a green card otherwise known as a US Permanent Resident Card is among the most crucial pieces of immigration documentation you can have.

For many immigrants, reaching the point of gaining permanent residence in their newly adopted country is a key milestone. As the step before the ultimate goal of citizenship, holding permanent residence removes a great deal of uncertainty regarding the future and your safety and security.

A green card allows a person to live and work in the US and start the process to become a naturalized US citizen. A green card holder becomes a permanent resident of the United States. And is entitled to many of the same benefits as a citizen, although not all.

Furthermore, over a million people in the United States live in LPR (lawful permanent resident status). There are different ways immigrants become permanent residents. They include marriage, close family members, employment, and others. However, permanent resident status is usually given to three categories of immigrants. They include those people who already have a green card and are issued a new one, relatives of US citizens or permanent residents, and workers in the US on employment visas.

Keep on reading to learn more. This article explains the benefits of green cards, as well as the responsibilities of having a green card.


What are the Benefits of Having a Green Card?

The main benefit of having a green card is that it allows the holder to permanently live and work in the United States, and the final step before the ultimate goal of citizenship. But having a green card provides many advantages. Below are the primary benefits of a green card:

  • You can eventually apply for United States citizenship. You will be eligible for naturalization after three years if you are married to a US citizen, or five years if not. Otherwise, you can apply after five years.
  • The United States government cannot deport you to your home country. Green card holders maintain status as permanent residents and regardless of future changes made to US immigration laws will never face deportation. Moreover, green cards are not temporary and cannot be revoked with potential changes to immigration laws. However, you can lose your residency if you commit a crime or violate a law.
  • You don't have to renounce the citizenship of your country of origin.
  • You are legally protected by the laws of the United States, your state of residence, and your local jurisdiction. People with permanent resident status have the same legal rights as US citizens.
  • Moreover, you can sponsor other family members who want to file a green card application. Family members of permanent residents are given priority, but not as great a priority as family members of US citizens. Family members eligible for sponsorship include your spouse, parents, siblings, and children. The spouses and children of those relatives are also eligible.

Benefits of a Green Card

  • As a lawful permanent resident (LPR), you can renew your green card every ten years.
  • Permanent residents can travel abroad and re-enter the United States with a valid green card, as long as they return within 12 months.
  • You can travel or live anywhere within the United States. State borders are no limitation, and there is no need to check in with any government agencies.
  • Moreover, you are eligible for federal benefits such as social security or government-sponsored financial aid for education.
  • You can also apply for a wide variety of jobs. Green cardholders have greater job opportunities than people on a work visa.
  • You can engage in politics at all levels. Green card holders are eligible to make financial contributions or volunteer for the candidate of their choice in US elections.

What are the Responsibilities of Green Cardholders?

Furthermore, although there are many benefits to having a green card, there are many restrictions and obligations as well. Meanwhile, once you become a green card holder, you hold specific responsibilities as a legal permanent resident of the United States, including the following:

  • Green card holders, like US citizens, must file income tax returns and report income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax authorities.
  • Green card holders are obligated to obey the law, including for the United States, their state of residence, and local jurisdiction.
  • Male green card holders between 18 to 25, need to register for the Selective Service. However, the United States has not had a draft since 1973.
  • Moreover, you need to carry a green card at all times. Otherwise, you could face up to 30 days in jail.
  • Just like US citizenship, green card holders may not engage in any attempt to change the form of government through illegal means.

What are the Limitations of Having a Green Card?

Although green card holders can live and work in the US, as well as enjoy most of the same benefits as a US citizen. Permanent residents do not have the full rights of a citizen. Therefore, there are some limitations you will have to face as a green cardholder. They are as follows:

  • You cannot vote in United States elections
  • Green card holders have a lower priority in sponsoring other family members for green cards than US citizens.
  • Your green card is not transferable. It does not extend automatically to children born outside of the United States.
  • Green card holders cannot run for political office in the United States.
  • You can't get a United States passport with a green card
  • Green card holders who leave the US permanently after 8 years or more are subject to expatriation and exit taxes. This limitation would also apply to a US citizen renouncing their citizenship.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not guarantee green card holders complete protection from deportation. For example, if you commit certain crimes, you may face deportation under immigration law.
  • Green cards must be renewed every 10 years.

What does the green card do?

A green card allows a non-U.S. citizen to gain permanent residence in the United States. Many people from outside the United States want a green card because it would allow them to live and work (lawfully) anywhere in the United States and qualify for U.S. citizenship after three or five years.

Green Card Compared to U.S. Citizenship:
Green card holders U.S. citizens (by birth or naturalization)
Do they qualify for government benefits?  Yes, but on a more limited basis than U.S. citizens enjoy.  Yes, if they meet the basic eligibility criteria.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the benefits of having a green card are certainly numerous. So are the routes to getting a green card, but the easiest pathway is through the green card lottery. Moreover, the process of getting a green card can be complicated and it is not advisable to handle your green card case alone. However, working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier.