A Green Card is an identity document that shows that a person who has migrated to the United States has permanent residency. Every year, millions of people all over the world try their luck in the Green Card lottery scheme with the chances of winning estimated at between 4-5%. It allows for permanent residency for up to 10 years at a time and is subject to renewal if it is conditional. If you’re considering applying for one, here are the pros and cons of getting one.
Pros of a US Green Card
Peace of mind
There’s a comfort and peace of mind that comes from living free of the fear of deportation. A Green Card goes a long way in ensuring this for immigrants especially those from nations in Africa, Latin America, and Arab nations.
Green Card holders are not citizens, however, they can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years, three years if they are married to a U.S. citizen.
Holders can sponsor certain relatives for visas or green cards allowing them to travel to the U.S. as well.
It makes it easier to travel in and out of the U.S. than it would be if one had just a tourist or work visa.
You are classified as a local so you pay local rates for colleges, vocational schools, and universities and end up paying a lot less than international students. Holders are eligible for student loans and grants which other immigrants are not eligible for.
More job possibilities
The opportunities available for work for immigrants with work visas are limited. A green card opens up the job market considerably.
Green Card holders do not need to pay into Social Security in order to receive these benefits.
Holders have the opportunity to contribute to political campaigns and in this way actively participate in civic life.
Cons of a U.S. Green Card
Still not an American citizen
A Green Card holder still does not have the full rights and responsibilities of a U.S. citizen, which include the following:
- the right to vote
- get priority in sponsoring family members for green cards
- obtain citizenship for children born outside the U.S.
- become an elected official
- travel with a U.S. passport
- receive full protection from deportation
Takes a lot of time
The application and renewal process can be time-consuming. It requires one to be legally present in the US for at least five years except in the case of the diversity lottery program.
A medical exam is mandatory to complete with all available vaccinations. In addition, you must be medically fit to be eligible for permanent residency.
Comply with the residency requirement
You have to comply with the requirements or risk losing the opportunity. If you take a trip of more than 180 days or travel internationally, that would be enough to have your Green Card taken away.
While a Green Card does not equate to citizenship, holders have to file taxes just like “actual” US citizens. This doesn’t necessarily have to be negative because it makes sense to want to contribute to the building of the community in which you live.
Lose home country benefits
In some countries, depending on the local laws, a Green Card holder may lose certain benefits of citizenship in their country. Australians, for example, can lose their right to vote in local elections after not returning for six years.
Carry it with you
If you are over the age of 18, you must carry your Green Card with you at all times.
You can lose it
You can lose the Green Card if there is any criminal activity linked to you even without a conviction. Any felony conviction even for a minor offence can justify deportation and denial of renewal.
Any drug-related crime no matter how small can result in potential loss of permanent residency.