If you’re like many people, you’d like to get a green card and become a lawful permanent resident, or LPR, of the United States. Whether you’re in the U.S. on a visa right now or you’re just beginning the process, this green card FAQ will answer all your questions – and if you don’t see the answers you need here, call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with a Wisconsin immigration lawyer.
Related: Immigrant visa information
Green Card FAQ
Check out the questions and answers below to get the information you need about becoming a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and getting a green card.
What is a Green Card?
A green card, which is officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. This immigration document shows that you’re authorized to travel anywhere in the U.S. for any lawful purpose, that you can work for any employer you wish to work for, and that you can live in any city in any state without restriction.
How Many Green Cards Are Issued Per Year?
During Fiscal Year 2019, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services issued just under 577,000 green cards. The number varies each year, but USCIS is working through its backlog of applications to reduce wait times for applicants.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?
Typically, it takes between 7 and 36 months for USCIS to process a green card application. It depends on several factors, including where your application is processed. Some types of green cards take even longer – for example, it can take between 1 year and 10 years for USCIS to approve a family preference green card.
You can check your case status online here.
Can I Travel While Waiting for a Green Card?
You can travel inside the U.S. without restriction while you’re waiting for your green card. If you want to leave the United States, you’ll have to fill out and file a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Typically, if you’re waiting for your green card and you leave the U.S. without an advance parole document, the U.S. government can conclude that you’ve abandoned your application.
Related: Permanent residency in the U.S.
How Long Can You Stay Out of the Country With a Green Card?
If you have a green card, you can generally stay outside the U.S. for up to 6 months at a time. If you stay outside the U.S. for more than 6 months but less than a year, you’ll most likely face additional questioning when you return. If you stay outside the U.S. for a year or more, you’ll need a reentry permit – but you can’t apply for it when you’re outside the U.S. You must apply for it when you fill out and file Form I-131 before you leave the country.
How Long is the Green Card (I-485) Interview?
Your green card interview, which USCIS uses to determine whether to permit you to change your status and become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., should take less than 30 minutes to complete. Some interviews are very short, and others are a bit longer. Either way, the immigration officer assigned to your case will ask you a series of questions and let you know whether your petition is approved on the spot – unless he or she needs more information. In that case, you’ll be given time to provide additional evidence. You’ll receive USCIS’s decision by mail.
What Happens After the Interview for a Green Card?
In many cases, the USCIS officer who conducts the green card interview will approve the application on the spot. If that happens to you, the officer may put an I-551 stamp inside your passport and USCIS will mail you a green card. However, sometimes USCIS needs more information to make a decision. If that happens to you, you’ll have time to provide evidence; then, you’ll wait for USCIS’s decision to arrive in the mail.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Immigration or These Green Card FAQ?
If you have questions about immigration that we haven’t answered here, please feel free to schedule a consultation with an immigration attorney by calling 414-383-6700.