Here’s what it takes for an immigrant to get a green card — and not lose it – Miami Herald

The American Dream that continues to attract immigrants to the United States starts with a valuable document: the permanent residence card, or green card.

The green card provides three important rights to immigrants who have it: to live permanently in the United States, to work at any legal work and enjoy the protection of all local, state and federal U.S. laws.

The following guide, based on official information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other government resources, offers a broad look at the different requirements for immigrants who want to obtain and maintain a green card.

Read more: These policy changes will impact legal immigrants in the U.S. in 2019

How to obtain a Green Card

U.S. immigration laws offer immigrants several ways of applying for green cards, depending on their individual situations. Most require a sponsor who can be a close relative or an employer.

USCIS says applicants must complete at least two forms, an immigrant petition and a Green Card application (Form I-485).

But first they must qualify under at least one of the eight following categories:



Special Immigrant

Refugee or Asylee Status

Human Trafficking and Crime Victims

Victims of Abuse

Other Categories such as the Visa Lottery and the Cuban Adjustment Act


Read more: Immigrants can now apply for U.S. citizenship and green cards online. Here’s how.

Green Card for a family member

The U.S. government allows foreign nationals to obtain legal residence based on their relationship with relatives who are already U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

There are two categories of family relationships: immediate relatives, such as spouses and unmarried children; and other family members described by immigration authorities as “preferences immigrants.”

Widows and widowers who were married to American citizens at the time of the citizen’s death are also eligible, as long as they can prove that their marriage was not fraudulent.

Read more: The U.S. government wants to reject fewer immigration applications. This tool will help.

Green Card for fiancés and married spouses abroad

A foreign national who is engaged to marry a U.S. Citizens can a obtain K-1 Visa, which allows him or her to travel to the United States with a “nonimmigrant status” and marry their petitioner within 90 days after admission.

Both partners must be legally free to marry, and if they have been married before they are required to present proof of their divorce or the death of a previous spouse. If the relationship started and developed on the Internet, they must show proof that they met in person at least once in the previous two years.

If the couple were married abroad, the immigrant partner is not eligible for this visa but can be sponsored as an immediate relative through Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Once the petition is approved, the information will be sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence.

Read more: Even with a green card, an immigrant can be deported under new guidelines

Medical examination for a Green Card

Every immigrant applying for lawful permanent resident status must undergo medical exams and vaccinations for immigration purposes to establish that there are no health issues that would deem the applicant inadmissible to the United States.

The medical tests are required for all eight categories of green card applications and must be performed by designated doctors who then must sign Form I-693 and send it on to USCIS with the results.

Immigrants must schedule their medical tests as close as possible to the filing date of the residence applications in order to make sure the results remain valid, the federal agency notes.

Read more: A basic requirement to get a green card has changed — and it helps legal immigrants

How to keep a green card

Permanent resident status can be lost due to inadvertent mistakes by green card holders, intentional abandonment of their status or deportation orders issued by an immigration judge.

USCIS considers abandonment to move to another country to live there permanently or living abroad for a prolonged period without evidence that the foreign stay is temporary.

Other factors that can negatively affect green card holders is failing to declare income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or claiming to be “nonimmigrants” in their tax returns.

Read more: Hope for immigrants: U.S. is giving $10 million to help legal residents become citizens

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