There are several benefits of having a green card in the U.S., including: - You can apply for citizenship after five years (or three with a marriage green card) - You are protected from deportation - It’s travel easier to travel around and outside of the United States - You can sponsor family members who want a U.S. green card - You’re eligible for federal benefits like student financial aid and Social Security benefits
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated July 31, 2023
What Are the Benefits of Having a Green Card?
There are many advantages to having a U.S. green card, which is also called a permanent resident card. The main benefit is that the green card holder can permanently live and work in the United States. Eventually, you can also apply to become a .
Other benefits of having a green card include:
The opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship
Protection from deportation
Legal protection under U.S. laws
The ability to sponsor family members who are applying for their green card
Easier travel, internationally and within the U.S.
The ability to live and work anywhere in the United States
Eligibility for federal benefits, including financial aid for education and Social Security
The opportunity to engage in politics
Green Card Benefit #1: Opportunity To Apply for U.S. Citizenship
Most green card holders (lawful permanent residents) can apply for U.S. citizenship (naturalization) after five years. However, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to apply after just three years.
If you don’t apply for naturalization, you need to renew your green card every 10 years. You don’t have to renounce the citizenship of your country of origin during this process.
Green Card Benefit #2: Protection From Deportation
The U.S. government cannot deport you to your home country if you are a green card holder. Though many aspects of immigration law are in flux, green card status is permanent, so green card holders are safe from deportation.
However, you can lose your legal permanent residency status if you commit a crime or violate a law. If you have a criminal record, you should get legal advice from an immigration lawyer or immigration law firm before proceeding with your green card application.
Green Card Benefit #3: Legal Protection Under U.S. Laws
The laws of the U.S., your state of residence, and your local jurisdiction legally protect you when you are a green card holder.
Green Card Benefit #4: Ability To Sponsor Family Members
Green card holders can sponsor family members who want to file a family-based green card application. Family members of U.S. citizens typically take priority over family members of immigrant visa holders or green card holders. This means it may take longer for non-citizen green card holders to get their immediate family members a green card.
Family members eligible for sponsorship include your spouse, parents, siblings, and children. The spouses and children of those relatives are also eligible. However, your immediate relatives, such as unmarried children and spouses, take priority.
Green Card Benefit #5: Easier Travel (International & Within the U.S.)
As a green card holder, you can travel internationally more easily than other visa holders, such as people with work visas like the H-1B visa or other nonimmigrant visas. Permanent residents (green card holders) can travel abroad and reenter the United States with a valid green card if they return within 12 months.
Traveling within the United States is even easier than traveling abroad. You do not need to verify your immigration status with any government agencies to travel within the U.S.
Green Card Benefit #6: Ability To Live and Work Anywhere in the U.S
You can live and work anywhere you want within the United States. State borders do not limit you. While some people with work permits can also apply for jobs, as a green card holder you will have even more job opportunities available. For example, you can work for the government in positions that require specific security clearances.
Green Card Benefit #7: Eligibility for Federal Benefits
You are eligible for federal benefits as a green card holder. This includes government-sponsored financial aid for higher education and Social Security benefits. You also get in-state or resident tuition rates at specific colleges or universities.
Green Card Benefit #8: Opportunity To Engage in Politics
While green card holders are not eligible to vote in federal, state, or local elections, you can make financial contributions or volunteer for a candidate/campaign in any U.S. election.
What Are the Responsibilities of Green Card Holders?
Once you become a green card holder, you have specific responsibilities. As a green card holder:
You will need to file income tax returns and report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax authorities
You are obligated to obey all federal, state, and local laws
If you are a male between the ages of 18 to 25 you need to register for the Selective Service (Note: the United States has not had a draft since 1973)
You need to carry a valid green card at all times
You cannot attempt to change the government in any illegal ways (this also applies to U.S. citizens)
What Are Some Limitations of Having a Green Card?
Although you can live and work in the United States and enjoy most of the same benefits as U.S. citizens, you do not yet have the full rights of a citizen. These are some of the limitations you will face as a green card holder:
You cannot vote in U.S. elections until you are a citizen
You cannot run for U.S. political office
You can't get a U.S. passport until you are a citizen
If you leave the U.S. permanently after eight years or more, you are subject to expatriation and exit taxes
If you commit certain crimes, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot protect you from deportation
Your green card will need to be renewed every 10 years