What is a US Green Card?

Sample Green CardA US green card is a plastic ID card held by a foreigner that is about the size of a credit card. A green card is evidence that a foreigner is a lawful permanent resident of the US, but not yet a US citizen. A foreigner carries it in his or her wallet as form of immigration ID.

Green Card vs. U.S. Citizenship

Like a US citizen, a green card holder can work at any job and can use the card to return to the US after international travel.

A green card is not US citizenship. You cannot use it to obtain a US Passport, for example. Foreigners who have green cards must keep their foreign passports and citizenship.

Long ago, foreigners could be issued U.S. citizenship upon arrival in the U.S. However, immigrants were being manipulated to vote or were voting in blocks to influence politics at all levels in government. So, the laws were changed and the green card process was established. Green card holders can’t vote for public office.

Those who obtain green cards based on marriage to US citizens must maintain the card (and remain married) for a minimum of two years and nine months before submitting a US Citizenship Application.

Exception: A foreigner who joins the US military can apply for US citizenship immediately.

Maintaining a US Green Card

A green card holder:

  1. Must maintain primary residence in the US. If the green card holder spends more than half the time outside the US, then the green card can be taken away;
  2. Must File US income tax returns and declare to be a US resident on the returns;
  3. Must Not commit any serious crimes;
  4. Must Not vote for public office; and
  5. Must Not claim to be a US citizen

Some green card holders never want US citizenship. Consult with a CPA or tax attorney regarding any tax consequences of obtaining US citizenship as compared to simply maintaining green card status.

For those who want US citizenship, the US allows dual citizenship. You can obtain US citizenship without losing your citizenship of another country, if that country also allows dual citizenship.

Helpful Links:
Removal of 2-year Conditional Green Card Status
Adjustment of Status from a K1 Fiancé Visa to Permanent Resident
Adjustment of Status from Another Visa to Permanent Resident
Entered the US Illegally
Maintaining a Green Card While Residing Abroad
Maintain Primary Residence Status in the US
Green Card Holder Immigrating a Foreign Spouse