Green Card FAQs
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1. What are the benefits of the green card?
- All legal permanent residents under the EB-5 Investor Program enjoy the same benefits as every other United States resident.
- The U.S. is a safe harbor for your family, as well as your personal and business investments. Any member of the family with a green card can enter the U.S. at any time and stay as long as he/she wishes, respecting residency requirements.
- Investors have constant and easy access to the United States for personal, trade and business purposes.
- Permanent residents travel to the U.S. without the need of a visa. Investors may work, live or own their own proprietary business anywhere in the United States.
- The U.S. has internationally-recognized colleges and universities for both basic education and graduate study. As a resident, the investor can benefit from lower tuition costs.
- The cost of living in the U.S. is less than most large industrial nations. Consumer goods, services and housing are significantly less expensive than comparable services and goods in most other countries.
- Students may work in the U.S. while they attend college and continue to work afterwards, enabling the student to pay part of his education and to work while attending graduate and postgraduate studies.
- The U.S. provides many financial, social and education entitlements such as public schools, health and medical attention, social security and education.
- The investor has the ability to bring immediate family members to the U.S. right away and, after proper application, can obtain U.S. citizenship after five years.
- The unrestricted permanent residency requires no renewal or re-application. Other U.S. non- immigrant visas, such as E-2 and H, may never result in permanent residency, have time limits and require additional filing with USCIS or the Department of State. Furthermore, U.S. immigration laws may change and prevent future approval when a renewal of visa is required.
2. What is a conditional green card?
A conditional green card is a temporary green card valid for two years. One year and nine months after it is issued, a three-month window opens up, during which an individual must file another application (I-829) with the USCIS to verify that all of the funds have been invested and employment has been created in a regional center, whether directly or indirectly. When the conditional resident status has been lifted, full resident status is granted and a permanent green card is issued.
3. What is the difference between conditional and unconditional green cards?
Under the regulations, an investor who is approved for the EB-5 immigrant visa receives a conditional green card, which must be reissued after two years, subject to removal of conditions. Otherwise, the two cards offer the same rights and privileges.
4. Who receives the permanent residency (green card)?
Husband, wife and any unmarried children under the age of 21. It is possible for adopted children to be included in the family. Upon approval, you will receive a form evidencing approval and a travel document. You should also receive a temporary green card in the mail.
5. What is the difference between permanent residency and citizenship?
Once you obtain a green card and become a legal permanent resident, you have most of the rights and obligations of U.S. citizens, except that you cannot vote, and you are not entitled to some public benefits. You are subject to the same tax filing requirements and entitled to the same tax rates and deductions as U.S. citizens. Your green card is your most important travel and identification document. When your green card arrives, look at it carefully. You may need to extend it in 10 years. If you replace it before then because it is lost, stolen or duplicated, you may file a form with the USCIS. Abandonment of Residency rules are an important restriction to which legal permanent residents are subject. Abandonment can occur when you are outside of the United States for more than six months without informing the USCIS of your plans in advance. The law provides that you are free to travel abroad, provided that your trip is temporary. Generally, the USCIS views any absence from the United States for longer than six months as not temporary. Thus, it is advisable to obtain a re-entry permit before your departure. One of the most important rights legal permanent residents possess is the right to obtain U.S. citizenship after five years. There are two ways to become a U.S. citizen. One is by being born in the U.S. The other way is by naturalization. The first step in becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization is to become a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). Being a LPR for five years is one of the basic requirements for qualifying for naturalization. A second requirement is being physically present in the U.S. for 30 months during the five years prior to the naturalization application. Once becoming a U.S. citizen, an individual is entitled to benefits including the right to vote and hold public office.
6. If my I-526 petition is approved by USCIS, what is the purpose of the Consulate application and interview, and how soon do I get my green card?
Upon approval of I-526 Petition, you must wait for notification from the U.S. consulate in your home country to prepare documents for the visa interview. The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that the investor and his/her family undergo medical, police, security and immigration history checks before the conditional permanent resident visa is issued. At the interview, the consular officer may address these issues and information printed on the I-526 application, including asking the investor to summarize the nature of his/her immigrant investment. If the investor and his/her family are in the United States, then you may apply for adjustment of status by filing form I-485 and supporting documents, the application may be filed at the appropriate office of the USCIS.
7. How long must I remain in the United States each year?
The first requirement of any investor after they receive the visa at the United States overseas consular office is to enter into the United States within 180 days of visa issuance from the consulate. The investor must then establish residency in the United States. Evidence of intent to reside includes opening bank accounts, obtaining a driverâ€™s license or social security number, paying state and federal income taxes, renting or buying a home. There are a few exceptions to the 180-day rule such as students studying abroad, medical circumstances or emergency business circumstances. The 180 days need not be consecutive. You may travel in and out of the country. Proper preparation for re-entry into the U.S. is highly recommend prior to leaving. The 180-day rule is in effect until you get citizenship in five years. It is still in effect when you get conditional residency and a green card. The United States resident may work overseas if required based upon the nature of the business or profession. However, all permanent residents must remain in the U.S. for more than six months each year, or they may be deemed to have abandoned their permanent residence status.
8. Can my green card be taken away from me?
Once you receive a green card, there are only two conditions required to keep it for life. First, you must not become removable or inadmissible. The most common way of doing this is to be convicted of a serious crime. The second requirement is that you not abandon the United States as your permanent residence. As long as you are not planning to make your home somewhere else, then legally you are still a resident of the United States. Problems may arise, however, because the USCIS will try to judge your intention by the way you act. Abandonment of Residency rules are an important restriction to which legal permanent residents are subject. Abandonment can occur when you are outside of the United States for more than six months without informing the USCIS of your plans in advance. The law provides that you are free to travel abroad, providing that your trip is temporary. Generally, the USCIS views any absence from the United States for longer than six months as not temporary. Thus, it is advisable to obtain a re-entry permit before your departure. As a general rule, if you have a green card and leave the United States for more than a year, you may have a difficult time re-entering the country. That is because the USCIS feels an absence of longer than one year indicates a possible abandonment of U.S. residence. Even if you do return before a year is up, you may run into trouble. To avoid a full-scale inspection, you should return within six months. It is a common misconception that to keep your green card all you need to do is enter the United States at least once a year. The fact is, if you ever leave with the intention of making some other country your permanent home, you give up your U.S. residency when you go. Once again, the USCIS will look to your behavior for signals that your real place of residence is not the United States. On the other hand, remaining outside the United States for more than one year does not mean you have automatically given up your green card. If your absence was intended from the start to be only temporary, you may still keep your permanent resident status. However, you may no longer use your green card as a U.S. entry document. You must either apply at a U.S. consulate for a special immigrant visa as a returning resident, or you must get what is known as a re-entry permit.
9. I have a green card and plan on traveling out of the U.S. for a long time. Can I keep my green card?
The primary rule surrounding green cards is that you lose it if you give up your U.S. residence. The more common criterion, though, is time based. There are three important time limits to know about:
- If you are absent for less then six months, you will rarely have a problem. It is up to USCIS to prove that you abandoned your residency.
- If you are absent for more than six months but less than a year, the burden of proof reverses. It becomes your job to prove that you are still a permanent resident. This is based on the concept that after six months you have to be readmitted and have to prove that you are still admissible. As a side note, after an absence of more than six months, the various criteria for admissibility apply again. For instance, if in the meantime you had become inadmissible, say through an HIV infection, you might have a problem.
- If you are absent for more than a year, your green card will be considered almost automatically abandoned. Once that happens, there is usually no recourse. However, if by chance the immigration officer did not ask you how long you have been out of the U.S. when you return, then you may be in luck and able to keep your green card. You should in this case not leave the U.S. for a long time, and make it your bona fide residence again.
10. I need to travel out of the U.S. for more than a year. Is there anything I can do?
You can apply for a re-entry permit (on form I-131) before you leave the U.S. You can depart before the re-entry permit is approved. Note that the waiting time may be six months or longer for issuance. Re-entry permits are issued for two years. You cannot renew a re-entry permit, but you can return to the U.S. for a short time and apply for a new one. The second such re-entry permit will be granted for two years, but subsequent ones may only be approved for one year at a time.
11. How long is a green card valid for?
There are several answers to this question. If you received your green card through marriage and have not been married for two years when you go get your green card, you should have a conditional green card that is good for two years. Also, if you received your green card through investment (EB-5), you should have a conditional green card for two years. You must apply for removal of the conditional status within 90 days before the two years are up. Once that is approved, you have a regular unconditional green card. If you apply either too early or too late, you will have a problem and should consult with an immigration attorney for advice. If you do not have the condition removed, the green card will become invalid at the end of two years, and your permanent resident status will be terminated. Unconditional green cards are valid for ten years. This does not mean that after ten years, you stop being a legal permanent resident â€“ only the card itself becomes invalid. You must apply for a new one using form I-90. Without a current green card, you cannot use the green card to travel out of the U.S., and you also cannot use the green card as evidence that you are permitted to work.