Green Card Myths: Facts And Fiction

For many people all over the world, moving to the United States - the famed land of opportunity - is a lifelong dream. Legal immigrants to the United States are issued a permanent resident card by U.S. immigration services, called a Green Card, which provides proof of their legal status and allows them to work and live in the U.S. Holding a Green Card is normally the first step on the path to American citizenship for most immigrants, a process that starts by filing Form N-400, the Citizenship Application.

Unfortunately, lots of myths and misconceptions surround the Green Card immigration program. From doubts regarding eligibility to questions about travel restrictions and citizenship, there is lots of confusion floating around about Green Cards. Below, we have dispelled 6 of the most common myths about Green Cards.

Myth 1: Getting a Green Card is Easy

Being approved for a Green Card is very difficult as USCIS approves only a limited number every year. There are 3 ways to get a Green Card: marrying an American citizen, getting hired for a specialized job, or the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, known as the Green Card lottery.

Myth 2: You can't get Deported if you have a Green Card

Having a Green Card does not protect you from deportation - only American citizens cannot be deported from the United States. If US immigration decides that you have committed a crime that is serious enough, you may be placed in deportation proceedings and be forced to leave the country.

Myth 3: You can't get a Green Card if you have a Criminal Record

A criminal record may affect your chances of being granted a Green Card, but does not automatically disqualify you. Depending on the crime and any mitigating circumstances that you may have (e.g., time since the conviction, if restitution was paid, etc.) it may be possible for you to still be approved for a Green Card.

Myth 4: Green Cards Never Expire

Green Cards have an expiration date that depends on the type of permanent residency you were granted. Green Cards acquired through marriage are valid for 3 years, for example, and those obtained through family sponsorship are valid for 10. Regardless, at some point you will have to file Green Card renewal paperwork with USCIS.

Myth 5: Having a Green Card and Being an U.S. Citizen are the same thing

Being a permanent resident and being an American citizen are certainly not the same thing. Green Card holders have a series of restrictions set on them: they cannot vote and must spend at least 6 consecutive months of every year in the United States. U.S. citizens, on the other hand, are allowed to vote and have no residency restrictions.

Myth 6: You Can't travel outside the U.S with a Green Card

If you have a Green Card, you can leave and enter the United States freely, but you must remain in the U.S. continuously for at least 6 months every year. Don’t lose your Green Card, though: if you lose it, you may have problems reentering the country and will have to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.

Having a Green Card may be the first step on path toward becoming an American citizen, and part of that process involves learning as much as you can about what to expect along the way. Armed with the right information and knowledge, you can make you dream of moving to the United States a reality.

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