Overview of Green Card and its Renewal Process
What is the Green Card?
Large numbers of people enter the U.S. from other countries on a daily basis. Some people are returning home after being away for some time, some are coming to visit their family, some on a holiday, some for work and some move permanently to settle down in the U.S. Whatever may be the reason, each person who is entering the U.S. should possess the right documents to prove that they are legally allowed to enter the country.
Many people are permitted to enter the country only for a specified time and that too for a specific purpose only. People who are on a vacation to the U.S. may be permitted to enter for a few weeks only and purely for tourist activities. They would not be allowed to work in the US. There are instances where some people would be permitted to enter for a few years at a time for work but this could be restricted to a certain employer. People who are moving to the U.S. under this category are called non-immigrants.
People who live and work in the U.S. without any restrictions are called immigrants. They are permitted to stay in the U.S. for an unlimited period of time, to participate in any legal activity, to work and also to study. Generally, immigrants refer to a select number of foreign nationals who have been permitted to live and work in the U.S. permanently.
Both Immigrants and Non-Immigrants must show a valid visa before they enter the US. A visa is similar to a pass. An immigrant who has gained entry to the U.S. would be issued an Alien Registration Card which is also known as a Green Card. Early editions of the card were light green in color and hence the term. Present day cards are either pink or light blue. A person with a Green Card is called a Lawful Permanent Resident.
There are various options for applying for permanent residency either from inside the country or from another foreign country. Regardless of how a person becomes one, every Lawful Permanent Resident gets to enjoy the unrestricted right to live in the country for an unlimited period of time and pursue any legal activity that they desire.
What is Green Card Renewal?
Once a person has been issued a Green Card, there is no need for them to do anything else to extend or ensure their status in the country. It is not easy to lose the Permanent Residency status without purposefully doing something to either renounce it or go against the sole purpose behind getting that status.
Present day cards are valid for 10 years. Even though a Green Card has an expiration date, the Permanent Resident status of a person never expires. The card itself is similar to an identification card and is just the official documentation of the permanent residency status.
What Happens When a Green Card Expires?
Green Card holders who are over 18 yrs of age are required to carry a valid green card at all times. Failing to do so may result in their being convicted with a fine of up to $100, 30 days in jail, or both. After the September 11 attacks, the US government is very strict regarding these kinds of legal violations.
Getting your permanent resident card renewed ensures that it is up to date with all the newest security features incorporated by the government. Possessing an expired card makes it difficult to prove the legal status, to accept employment offers or to obtain benefits. It also makes it difficult to gain re-entry into the U.S. after any international travel.
When Should the Renewal Application be Filed?
Applications to renew the Green Cards can be filed as much as six months before the date of expiry of the card.