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US Green Card

Living and working in America

The Green Card unlocks the door to the United States for thousands of USA fans every year. It allows the lucky Green Card winners permanent residence as well as an unlimited work permit for the US.

The USA raffles 55,000 of the desirable US immigrant visas in the Green Card Lottery every year. Find out if you are eligible for the lottery with our free Green Card Check:  

Go to Green Card Check

What is a Green Card?

The US Green Card is an immigrant visa that grants the holder unlimited residence and work permit for the United States of America.

The issuing authority, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) calls the Green Card by its official name “Lawful Permanent Resident” (LPR).

The history of the Green Card

The story of the Green Card started in 1940. People without US citizenship had to officially register when entering the United States for the first time. Depending on whether they were visitors, immigrant workers, or permanent immigrants, they received a matching "Alien Registration Card".

For permanent residents, it used to be "Form I-151.“ The nickname “Green Card“ came about because immigrant visas were printed on green paper in the 1950s.

Since then, immigrants had to prove their legal stay in the US on request. Not being able to show one’s Green Card meant a violation of immigration law and therefore legal consequences. This has not changed until today.

The Green Card design has regularly changed over the years. Apart from the color (it has even been yellow and pink for a while), the USCIS has also changed the required information and even the name of the form: Today, it is called “Form I-551”.

Benefits of the US Green Card

The US Green Card is one of the most desired immigrant visas in the world for good reason. Holders of the Permanent Resident Card enjoy a variety of benefits:

  • Unlimited entry to the USA - no need for a US visa or ESTA!
  • Living in any US state without restrictions
  • Maintaining your current citizenship
  • If desired: Applying for American citizenship after 3 or 5 years

As an employee:

  • No need for a special work visa
  • Free choice of employer
  • Unlimited employment
  • Risk-free change of employer
  • Less strict work requirements than for other non-Americans

Being self-employed:

  • Easier and faster to obtain business licenses

As a student:

Study with Green Card

As a pensioner:

  • A legal and permanent residence for retirement
  • Eligibility for pension benefits earned in the US and in the home country
  • Eligibility for medical care and other government social assistance.

    For this benefit, you must have lived in the US for at least five years.

Limitations for US Green Card holders

Depending on one’s life situation and personal wishes, the Green Card may also bring some disadvantages:

  • The Permanent Resident Card does not include voting rights in Federal, State, and most local elections.
  • If the Green Card holder stays outside the US for too long, their Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) rights will expire (max. 1 year or 2 years upon application).
  • Fingerprints and photos will still be taken every time a Green Card holder enters the United States.
  • LPRs are considered taxable in the USA and therefore must file a tax return and declare their worldwide income. However, the Double taxation agreements prevent them from overpaying in most cases.

What does a Green Card look like?

The design of the Green Card has changed over the years. To make it more difficult to fake the immigrant visa, USCIS not only modified the color but also added features like a hologram and machine-readable number codes.

In 2023, there was a complete redesign, and the following changes were made to increase the security of the Green Card:

  • New image technology
  • Design changes
  • New tactile printing
  • Improved optically variable ink
  • Holographic images on the front and reverse sides
  • Fingerprint removal on the front
  • Layer reveal function on the rear photo box
  • Data fields in different order

Green Card Design front viewGreen Card Design back view

Source: USCIS

How to apply for a Green Card

There are different ways to obtain a Green Card:

  1. To take on a job in the USA
  2. To reunite with family members in the USA
  3. By winning the Green Card Lottery

Depending on the category, different Green Card requirements must be met.

Any Green Card application must be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) online. As soon as the immigration authorities have reviewed and approved the application, a consular processing (or status adjustment when applying from inside the USA) follows.

From now on, the future Green Card holder is either called the “applicant” (when filing the Green Card petition for himself) or the “beneficiary” (when a family member or employer files it.)

When filing from outside the USA, the consulate in the home country of the applicant or beneficiary checks all documents and clarifies any open questions. Also, the future LPR will be invited for a Green Card Interview.

If the Green Card aspirant is already in the United States, he or she can file for an “Adjustment of Status.” The required forms and supporting documents depend on the specific Green Card category.

What is needed in the Green Card interview?

The documents required for the Green Card interview depend on whether you are applying for a family reunion, a job-based Green Card, or have won the Green Card Lottery.

Green Card applicants and beneficiaries must follow the pre-interview instructions during the Green Card application process. Moreover, the following documents must be presented in the original by all Green Card aspirants:

  • The interview invitation
  • A passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the intended date of entry
  • Two to four biometric passport photos
  • Medical examination results
  • Various proofs such as a birth certificate, a current criminal record, or proof of financial means

In general, all documents that are crucial for obtaining a Green Card must be brought along as originals and copies. Furthermore, the documents must be brought either in English or in the official language of the country in which the consulate is located.

Will my family receive a Green Card too?

Unmarried children under the age of 21, adopted children, stepchildren, and spouses are also eligible for a Green Card upon application at the same time as the principal applicant.

Older children may be eligible for a Green Card through a later application as part of a family petition.

Married children (regardless of age), parents, or siblings can only obtain permanent residency if they are related to a US citizen. Therefore, a Green Card holder can apply for US citizenship after three or five years as an LPR and then petition for his or her family members.

Where do I apply for a Green Card?

All Green Card applications are submitted online to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, if you want to win the Green Card Lottery, it is recommended to work with the official immigration consultants of The American Dream.

Increase the Green Card winning chances

Every year, thousands of USA fans hope to win one of the much-desired 55,000 US immigrant visas in the Green Card Lottery. However, each year, up to 40% of all participants are disqualified by the US Government due to small errors in their application. The problem here: Nobody tells them that they have been disqualified, let alone why.

The Green Card Lottery raffle is an electronic process, and the rules for submitting data and Green Card photos are very strict. The lack of communication from the US Officials makes the process very obscure.

For this reason, there is a team of official relocation consultants who act as agents between the Green Card applicants and the US authorities. The American Dream has been the number one US Immigration Partner for 25 years, ensuring that Green Card Lottery applicants do not get disqualified.

The state-certified emigrant consultants of The American Dream review each application twice and guarantee participation in the Green Card Lottery. With a probability of success of 1:25, the chances of winning are very high.

Green Card Lottery

Deadline Nov 4, 2023
Basic 48 € 69 €
Smart 98 € 119 €
VIP 148 € 169 €

Apply now

How to buy a Green Card

There is a rumor circulating that you can obtain permanent residence more quickly with a correspondingly large sum of money. This assumption probably has its origins in the EB-5 Green Card category, which is aimed specifically at investors. They can obtain a green card with an investment of USD 800,000 or USD 1,050,000 in a newly founded company in the USA.

However, the investment alone is not sufficient here. Applicants must fulfill other conditions, such as creating or preserving at least ten full-time jobs for US citizens and taking on an active role, e.g. management, in the company.

Buy a Green Card

A simple exchange - money for a Green Card - is therefore not possible. Accordingly, the Green Card cannot be purchased legally. The only way to obtain a US immigrant visa is through a successful application for a job-based green card, family reunification, or winning the annual Green Card Lottery.

How much does a Green Card cost?

Depending on the category and the individual situation, the application for a Green Card involves different fees. Applicants and beneficiaries should be prepared for the following costs.

Basic Green Card costs
Standard processing fee $ 325 - $ 345
USCIS Immigrant fee $ 235
Medical fee $ 400 - $ 700

Unlike the straightforward Green Card Lottery, employment-based and family-based Green Card processes add additional costs. The following fees have to be paid on top of the basic Green Card costs:

Additional costs for employment-based Green Cards
Petition for Alien Workers $ 715
Premium processing (to avoid waiting times) $ 2,805
Attorney costs for a Labor Certification
(proves the need to hire a foreigner)
vary between
$ 3,000 and $ 4,000


Additional costs for family-based Green Cards
Alien Relative Petition $ 625 - $ 675

How do I get the Green Card after approval?

Once the immigrant visa is approved, the applicant receives a stamp in their passport, which serves as a temporary equivalent to the Green Card. In addition, they will receive a sealed envelope with documents, which must not be opened.

During the Green Card activation trip, the envelope must be handed to the border officials upon arrival in the US.

After that, the physical Green Card will be printed and sent to the US postal address of the Green Card holder. Only addresses within the USA are allowed here.

Which rights do Green Card holders have?

Green Card holders have nearly the same rights as US citizens, with only a few exceptions. A Lawful Permanent Resident may:

  • Permanently live in the USA
  • Enter the country at any time quickly and easily
  • Travel unrestricted within the country
  • Freely choose a place to live in the United States
  • Freely choose where to work in the US
  • Work in the States without a time limit
  • Save up to 80% of the tuition fees as a student
  • Apply for US citizenship after three or five years as a Green Card holder
  • Receive government assistance and social benefits after five years as a Green Card holder

What are the duties of Green Card holders?

Having a US Green Card comes with a lot of benefits, but also responsibilities:

  • The physical Green Card must be carried at all times.
  • In case of a residence change, the immigration authorities must be informed within ten days.
  • The physical Green Card must be renewed after ten years (although the Green Card rights remain for life.)
  • Green Card holders must follow US laws and support the basic democratic order of the USA.
  • A tax return must be filed and worldwide income must be taxed.
  • If you are staying abroad for more than one year, you must apply for a Re-Entry Permit in advance.

Green Card received - do I have to move now?

A Green Card should not be seen as a way to enter the US for business or vacation purposes. Instead, the focus must be on long-term immigration.

However, especially in the first period after receiving a Green Card, the authorities understand that not everyone can abruptly move to the USA. Therefore, commuting between the United States and the home country is less of a problem during the first one to three years.

Emigrate with Green Card

Yet it is important to not leave the USA for more than 12 months after receiving your Green Card. Even 6 months of absence may lead to unpleasant questions by immigration officers.

Anyone who cannot enter the USA for longer than twelve months at a time must apply for a Re-Entry Permit in advance. With this permit, the Green Card holder may stay outside the USA for up to 24 months.

Do Green Card holders pay taxes in the USA?

As soon as a Green Card has been issued, its holder is liable to pay taxes in the USA. This means that he must file an American tax return and pay tax on his worldwide income.

Note: Double taxation agreements between the USA and other countries can prevent certain income from being taxed twice.

How long is the Green Card valid for?

Green Card rights are for a lifetime and will only be withdrawn under some conditions. However, the physical card must be renewed after ten years. Failing to renew it could result in a fine.

Reasons for the revocation of Green Card rights

Under some circumstances, the life-long Lawful Permanent Resident rights can be withdrawn from an LPR. These are:

1. Excessive absence of the Green Card holder

Staying outside the USA for more than 365 days without a valid Re-Entry Permit will lead to receiving a warning or penalty fee and, in the worst case, the loss of the Green Card.

2. Committing a crime as an LPR

If a Green Card holder commits criminal acts within the first five years of issuance, the Green Card may be canceled. In case of several serious criminal acts, the immigrant visa can be revoked even beyond the five-year period.

3. Time limit on conditional Green Cards

Another reason for the revocation of a Green Card is the failure to apply for the removal of conditions. These exist, for example, for investor Green Cards or newly married couples.

4. Taking on US citizenship

If the Green Card holder applies for and is granted US citizenship after three or five years, he or she must give back the Green Card.

Can I return my Green Card voluntarily?

A Green Card may be returned by the holder at any time. To do so, Form I-407 (Abandonment by Alien of Status as Lawful Permanent Resident) must be submitted to the USCIS or (outside the USA) to a US consulate or embassy together with the Green Card.

Note: We would not recommend other possible ways of getting rid of your Green Card rights as they might lead to problems (e.g., at the airport or the border when visiting the US later.)

Green Card lost - what now?

If a Green Card gets lost or stolen within the USA, Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) must be filed immediately. Afterward, a Notice of Action (Form I-797) will be returned. This letter must be carried as proof of status until the new Green Card is issued.

If you lose your Green Card during a temporary stay abroad, you must submit the Application for Travel Document - Carrier Documentation (Form I-131A) online and pay the appropriate fee before re-entering the country. This is followed by an interview at a US consulate or embassy, where re-entry permission is granted. Once back in the US, Form I-90 must be filed to obtain a new Green Card.

How long can Green Card holders stay abroad?

A Green Card holder must keep in mind that staying outside the US for a long and uninterrupted period of time without authorization might lead to losing their Green Card rights.

Absence under 6 months

Staying outside the US for less than six months should not be a problem.

Absence between 6 and 12 months

Anyone who stays away for six to twelve months must be prepared for questions by the border officials when re-entering the country.

Absence over 12 months

Green Card holders who stay outside the USA for more than 12 months must obtain a Re-Entry Permit in advance using Form I-131.

With this permit, the LPR can stay outside the USA for up to two years. The permit can also be granted a second time with sufficient justification.

Living in the US without a Green Card

Living in the United States permanently with free choice of residence and employment is only possible with a Green Card or US citizenship.

Of course, there are various other visa categories, but these are always issued for a limited period of time and are subject to strict requirements.

Therefore, anyone who wants to move to the USA to live a low-stress, free life should apply for a Green Card.

Are Green Card holders US citizens?

Green Card holders are not automatically US citizens, but they have almost the same rights. A Green Card holder can apply for Naturalization (becoming a US citizen) after three or five years in the USA.

Green Card holders not US citizens

Apply for US citizenship as a Green Card holder

Green Card holders who wish to become American citizens must meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18 years
  • Have a “good moral character“ (Must respect American laws)
  • A minimum of three months of residence in the same US state or USCIS district prior to application
  • Be a resident of the US for at least five years as a Green Card holder
  • Having spent at least 30 months in the US within the last five years


  • Having lived with and being married to a US citizen for at least three years, and having spent at least 18 months of that time together in the US

If these requirements apply, USCIS Form N-400 can be filed online. After the application is processed and the fee is paid, fingerprints will be taken.

This is followed by an interview at the USCIS office, where an English test and a knowledge test are administered.

So these are two additional requirements to become a US citizen:

  • Pass the English test
  • Pass the naturalization test - also called the Civics Test

If successful, the invitation to the naturalization ceremony follows. Here, the Green Card is handed over, and the American passport is issued. At the same time, the Social Security data should be changed and the voting ballot should be registered.

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