A green card allows the holder to legally reside, work and study in the United States. They have more permanency to them than visa, but don't allow full voting rights like a US citizen. This is why they are referred to as Permanent Residence, and their status is valid for a period of 10 years. There is also a conditional residency that is only valid for 2 years. There is currently a quota system that restricts the number of individuals that are permitted to receive a green card. They classify groups of individuals by profession, marital status, age, and a number of other factors. There are however some shortcuts to obtaining a green card.
One shortcut to obtaining a green card is through family relationships. Keeping immediate families together is a stated goal of the US immigration policy. If you are a child, spouse, or parent of the US citizen or green card holder than obtaining your own green card is significantly easier. It it virtually impossible to obtain a green for a more distant relative. Citizenship through family members remains the quickest and most efficient method to become a US citizen.
Employment based green cards are another option. As a rule they are reserved for individuals with special skills. This is not generally an option for most workers, unless they their set of skills is in a shortage in the USA. This option is also available for those who are highly educated. To receive this option can be difficult because the employer is required to sponsor and apply on your behalf, which can take along time and be burdensome.
Political asylum and Refugee:
Political asylum seekers and refugees are eligible to receive a green card after residing in the USA. They must be able to prove they have fear of persecution in the home country. Showing that that have received threats or damage to property of themselves increases their changes of obtaining a green card. A refugee must wait one year to apply for a green card and be granted political asylum and a green card.
Keeping the Green Card:
Once the green card has been obtained it eliminates the worry of visa status and leaving or returning to the USA. However, a care must be taken to follow the rules that come with a green card. An address must be maintained in the USA. Next, the majority of time must be spent within the USA, if you leave for 6 months there will likely be questioning when you return. Additionally, the green card must be carried on you at all times, domestically and internationally. If not, you can be fined domestically and have serious problem reentering if you go abroad.
Each green card status is unique and a competent professional should be consulted to see which one suits each situation.
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