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IMMIGRATION – Post Green Card: What Happens After You Obtain Lawful Permanent Residency?

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Greetings everyone! This week I would like to discuss what happens after you receive your Permanent Residency Card, or commonly referred to as the "Green Card". What do you do with it? Do you have to keep the card with you at all times or can you leave it at home? Do you need to renew it? And if so, when?  These are just some of the questions that I have been asked in the past from those who have either recently received their Green Cards or those that are expecting theirs in the near future.

What Is A "Green Card"?

First of all, what is a "green card"? Physically, the green card is rectangular, similar in size to that of a driver's license, credit card, or membership I.D.  In the past, the card was entirely green with white or black lettering, hence the name "Green Card". Presently the card is not just green, but is multi-colored. However, more important than the physical characteristics of the card, is the value as evidence it provides the owner; that is, it is proof of lawful immigration status here in the United States. The owner of the Green Card is authorized to not only live in the United States, but also, to be gainfully employed without general restrictions.

What do I do with my Green Card once I receive it? Do I have to keep it with me at all times?

1) Verify your information is correct: Once you receive your Green card, I suggest that you immediately examine it to verify that your information is correct. Make sure your first name, last name, birthday, etc., is correct.  More recently, information regarding when the person obtained lawful residency was incorrectly indicated by USCIS (Note: I posted this error on my Facebook page. Since then, many people have contacted me to tell me that their Green Cards were also wrong). Since mistakes can end up costing you time and money, especially when it comes to applying for Citizenship later down the road, be sure to check if all your information is correct!

2) Make a copy: After you have verified that the information is correct, make a copy of the Green Card and keep it in a safe place. Although you can always request a new card if you were to perhaps lose it or have it stolen, it is always better to have proof of the original card.

3) Possession of the card: As for the actual Green Card and whether or not you have to keep the card with you at all times - the official answer is YES.  According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), if you are a permanent resident aged 18 or older, you are required to have a valid Green Card in your possession at all times. 

Although an officer can always check the system to verify your lawful residency status, it is much faster to simply present your card as proof. Most times, after you do show them your Green Card, it becomes a non-issue.  

Now that I received my Green Card, do I have to renew it?

As long as you remain a lawful permanent resident (as opposed to being a naturalized U.S. Citizen), you will have to eventually renew your Green Card either in about 2 years, or each 10 years, depending on what type of Green Card you received. (My advice: For those that are eligible, I would suggest you consider petitioning for U.S. Citizenship. Recent news has come out that the current administration in the White House is seeking to make it more difficult for people to become U.S. Citizens! Please see my FB page for more information on this).  To determine the duration of your lawful residency status, look at the front of your Green Card. Near the bottom, it will indicate when you obtained lawful status (i.e., "Residence Since"), and when your status expires (i.e., "Card Expires").  

The 2-Year “Conditional” Green Card Based on Marriage: 2 Year Expiration

If you have obtained a Green Card that was issued with a 2 year expiration, you     have what is called a “conditional” Green Card.          This type of Green Card is issued if      you were married less than two years when your lawful permanent residency status         was granted. Prior to the 2 year anniversary of this Green Card, you are required to      petition for removal of this condition. In general, to convert the conditional Green          Card into a 10 year green card, the U.S. citizen/sponsoring spouse and the conditional Green Card-holding spouse must petition to have the condition         removed within 3 months before the card expires. Failure to do this will result in     the expiration of the Green Card and automatic termination of your lawful       permanent residency status!

The 10-Year Green Card: Long Term Residency with 10 Year Expiration

For those of you who are in possession of a 10 year Green Card, take comfort in     the fact that not only does your card indicate a longer term of lawful residency, but         when it comes time to renew, it is not as difficult nor is the process as time-     consuming as for those holding "conditional" Green Cards. In addition, whereas    "conditional" Green Card holders are required to petition for removal of their       conditions within 3 months of expiration, 10 year Green Card holders can apply    within 6 months of expiration!

Green Card Benefits

After you receive your Green card, whether it is "conditional" or not, you gain some rights and privileges, such as:

1)Proving Legal Residency Status - the card is proof that you are not an unlawful     immigrant, and that you have the right to maintain residency here in the United States,

2)Employment Verification - the card allows you to work in the United States without use   of a separate employment/work permit,

3)Social Security Card - with your Green Card, you can apply for a social security number         and card,

4)Driver's License - with your card, you can apply for a state issued driver's license,  and

5)Travel Document - you can use your card to travel, and more importantly, to return to       the United States. However, as a general warning: do not remain out of the U.S. for         more than 6 months, and definitely not more than 1 year, without first obtaining a valid        travel permit from USCIS!

Immigration law can be confusing. We are here to help you. If you have any questions still left unanswered or you have questions regarding other legal issues such as Business, Family, or Property, email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,callmy office at (818) 846-5639, or my Thai direct line at (818) 505-4921. Also be sure to check us out on the web at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM, and now on FACEBOOK at:  Be sure to follow (and "like") me for most recent updates in the law!

Disclaimer: The information contained herein have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice unless otherwise specified. If you have a specific question regarding your personal case, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph Chitmongran for a full consultation.