The steps needed for obtaining a green card

Published: 09th May 2007
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There is a long, difficult and time consuming process that needs to be undertaken if someone wants to obtain a green card and enjoy the benefits of US naturalization. A number of critics state that if the process would be simplified, the number of illegal immigrants would decrease significantly. And you can be sure that a lot of things may be done faster.

For someone to visit the United States as a tourist, student, patient or for business purposes, the process is very simple. They are required to present their passport, an ID card with a photo or birth certificate and the entry visa. Once they have done that, they are free to enter the country. It is very simple, low in cost and consumes very little time.

A visa is the endorsement on a document which is used to prove its authenticity and states the permission of its bearer to travel or to enter a specific country. An alternate name for this type of visa is a nonimmigrant visa. All the costs involved in the process reach 300$ the most and that is including passport fees, the nonimmigrant visa and a border crossing card.

The difficult process is when you want to reside and work in the US. You must obtain an immigrant visa, otherwise known as a green card. (wrong terminology, immigrant visa is not the same thing as a green card, it is sometimes a pre-requisite in that you enter with the immigrant visa and then have the option of adjusting your status to that of a lawful permanent resident otherwise known as green card holder.) This document was originally called the Alien Registration Receipt Card, but its name was recently changed to Permanent Resident Card. Before it was green in color, but now it is white with just a few green printings on the back. Because of this it is still known as a green card. It is valid for 10 years and the recipients of this document must have it with them all the time.

Obtaining a green card requires a petition by either a relative or an employer. This petition is meant to allow the foreign citizen to reside permanently or to be employed in the United States. After this, the long and difficult process begins. There are three steps involved in this process that may seem simple and easy to follow, but they require a lot of time and money.

Before, the service that issued the green cards was known as INS, or the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but now, since it is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, it is known as the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, or simply put USCIS. This institution is required to review all the documents and approve the petition filed by the relative or employer. This step can take more than two months. The lack of communication between the USCIS and the petitioner is the main cause for delays.

After you have overcome the first step, which can cost up to 400$, the paperwork is collected by the National Visa Center. The NVC determines whether any additional documents are needed. This step can take up to seven months and can reach a cost of more than 500$. The last step is to issue a visa number to the US embassy or consulate and only a few of those are available each year. For immediate family, waiting for a number is not necessary. An appointment to the embassy can take up to nine months.

The applicant is required to take additional blood tests and medical exams. This can cost an additional 200$. Once you have overcome these steps and you have your green card, you can reside in the US for 10 years. After 5 years you have the right to apply for citizenship. The naturalization is complete when you have taken the Oath of Allegiance.

Even though taking the Oath means you are a US citizen and the naturalization process has ended, you also need to prove you have good knowledge about the language, history, government and you are willing to uphold the principles of the constitution. The final fee that you are required to pay is of 400$ for fingerprinting and application and after that your US naturalization is complete.

The three steps that have been presented afore seem simple. The hassle comes with the long periods of time you need to wait in order obtain your green card . It requires commitment, determination and resources. After all the efforts are over and your naturalization is complete, you will see that it was worth it.


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