By Shanelle Clarke, Esq.

Possessing a Green Card in the United States is not a right, it is a privilege.  In order to obtain a green card, to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States an immigrant must be sponsored by an employer (Employment Based Immigration) or immediate relative who is a US Citizen (Family Based Immigration).  An immediate relative is a spouse, child 21 and older or parent. The current processing time for Family Based Immigration is approximately 18 months. The process entails submitting several forms and supporting documentation to USICS and attending an interview with an Immigration Officer.  Once the petition is approved and the interview is successful, the immigrant will be granted permanent residency in the United States. If the US Citizen Sponsor and the immigrant have been married less than 2 years at the time of application and interview, the residency will be conditional, with the condition needing to be removed 2 years later.  If the couple has been married longer than 2 years, the residency will be permanent, meaning the immigrant will receive a 10 year green card. If the US Citizen sponsor is a parent or child, the immigrant will receive a 10 year green card.

Once an immigrant becomes a Lawful Permanent Resident, he or she is free to leave the United States for travel, once there is no criminal history.  A Lawful Permanent Resident must carry his or her green card at all times and keep a valid passport from their home country.  Additionally, an LPR can do all things a United States Citizen can EXCEPT register to vote, vote in any election, serve on juries or stay out of the United States for more than three months at a time.


You are charged with or convicted of Domestic Violence, 

You have 2 or more DUI’s in the past 5 years, or have drug charges, 

You are charged with or convicted of Violent Crimes or Crimes of Moral Turpitude.  

Some misdemeanors are considered aggravated felonies for Immigration purposes.

Aggravated felonies include, but are not limited to the attempt to commit or the commission of the following: sale of controlled substances, murder, rape, kidnapping, money laundering, smuggling undocumented individuals, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, prostitution, failure to appear in court when summoned and theft over $10,000.

Stay on the right side of the law and you will be able to keep your green card and eventually become a citizen of the United States.  It is always best to keep in contact with your Attorney to make sure there are no changes to the Immigration Laws that can affect you as a green card holder.