Getting a United States Green Card is an accomplishment that brings many benefits with it. Perhaps the single most important of these is that when applicants become Green Card holders, they take a big step towards becoming a full U.S. citizen. Obtaining a Green Card is a mandatory step immigrants must follow if they ultimately want to become a United States citizen.
Green Card holders, also known as Lawful Permanent Residents, enjoy several other benefits as well:
- They are able to sponsor relatives to apply for their own Green Card. The family member must be an immediate relative which is defined as a spouse, parents, or unmarried children under 21 years old. Even if they are not an immediate relative, in some instances a Green Card holder may be able to sponsor them under what is known as the Family Preference category.
- Green Card holders can pay significantly less for tuition to attend colleges, universities or vocational schools. If they can prove residency in a state, Green Card holders may be able to claim “in state” status when applying to schools, giving them considerable savings over “out of state” tuition costs. Green Card holders can also apply for financial aid, further reducing school costs.
- Permanent residency status as a Green Card holder means they do not need to keep reapplying to maintain that status. They only need to renew their status once every 10 years by filing out a Form I-551 and submitting it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is generally done about six months before a Green Card is set to expire.
- They can make contributions to U.S. election campaigns whereas non-citizens cannot. Although they can donate to campaigns, Green Card holders are restricted from voting in U.S. elections. That is a right reserved only for full United States citizens.
- For shorter trips, travel to and from the United States is considerably easier with a Green Card in hand. It is important to note that Green Card holders planning to travel outside of the U.S. for more than six months at a time run the risk of being challenged on whether or not they plan to make the United States their permanent home. Green Card holders who are outside of the United States for a year or longer are presumed to have abandoned the U.S. as their permanent home. Proving otherwise can be a difficult proposition that will probably include an immigration hearing trying to convince a judge that there was no intent to abandon status in the U.S.
- If they work for 10 years in the United States before retiring, Green Card holders are entitled to receive Social Security benefits.