The White House on Wednesday introduced a merit-based immigration system that would create new standards for determining which foreigners are granted legal residency in the United States.
The proposed points-based system would rank applicants based on level of work experience, family ties and education. For example, individuals would score higher if they speak English and can financially support themselves.
Here are seven facts about permanent residency as it currently stands, as compiled from information published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service:
What is a green card?
A green card, formally known as a permanent resident card, is issued to foreign nationals by the Citizenship and Immigration Service. It authorizes recipients to reside and work in the United States indefinitely. The card has holographic images and laser-engraved fingerprints to prevent counterfeiting. It must be renewed every 10 years. A green card is required if a person wants to “naturalize” and become a U.S. citizen.
Why is it called a green card?
The first version of the permanent resident card was called an alien registration receipt card. The first one, produced shortly after World War II, according the CitizenPath.com, was green. Over the years, the cards have been various shades of pale blue pink and yellow.
Who is eligible for a green card?
Currently, several categories of people are eligible, including: spouses of U.S. citizens; parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21; workers with “extraordinary ability” in a field such as science and the arts, education, business or athletics; people who have had asylum or refugee status for a least a year; foreign nationals who “have invested — or are actively in the process of investing — at least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. that will create full-time positions for at least 10 qualifying employees; and those investing $500,000 in a targeted employment area.
Green cards are also available through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery, which uses a random drawing to grant 50,000 a year to pre-screened applicants from countries that have a low rate of immigration to the U.S.
In 2017, natives of the following countries were barred from applying for the green card lottery: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (not including Hong Kong), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom and its dependent territories, except Northern Ireland.
The Trump administration has proposed ending the green card lottery.
What’s the procedure for obtaining a green card and how long does it take?
Immigrants already in the U.S. legally must file papers to change their current visa status and apply to become a permanent resident. There are a set number of immigrant visas that may be issued to foreign nationals seeking to become lawful permanent residents each year. There is no such limit on immigrant visas for “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens.
People outside the U.S. must apply at an American consulate abroad. The process starts with an initial petition leading to the assignment of an immigrant visa number, which allows an application to move forward.
Processing time for obtaining a green card varies, but six months or more is not unusual.
Is there a cost?
Yes. The cost runs just over $1,000, which includes fees for adjusting a foreign national’s immigration status and the collection of fingerprints and other biometric information, such as a photograph and signature, which are used for security checks.
What types of benefits come with a green card?
Aside from being allowed to live and work permanently in the United States, green card holders can travel freely around the country and can sponsor certain family members to apply for their own green cards. After five years, permanent residents can also apply to become a citizen. Other benefits include eligibility for Social Security, retirement and tax benefits, insurance coverage and grants for research and education. They can also legally apply for financing of purchases such as a house or car.
What kind of prohibition do green card holders face?
They are not allowed to run for elected office or vote in federal elections. Neither can they serve on a jury.