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April 30, 2010

How Long Does a Green Card Last and How Can You Keep It?

A green card has many key advantages for immigrants who want better jobs, homes, and an education. Perhaps the biggest benefit is being able to live and stay within the U.S. Also, you have the option to apply for U.S. citizenship after you’re a permanent resident.

But how long does a green card last? And are there ways to keep it, and eventually becoming a U.S. citizen?

The first question is the easy one: a green card will last for 10 years before you have to reapply. This is an important step as you need to renew it with the U.S. government; otherwise, you can be denied reentry if you leave the country. If you’re late on applying for a green card, you should not wait to contact an immigration lawyer for help or filling out the necessary applications.

Since a green card lasts 10 years, that gives you plenty of time to consider U.S. citizenship. You have four options for U.S. Citizenship:
-Birth in the U. S.or its territories automatically grants you citizenship
-Birth to U.S. citizen parents also grants you citizenship
-Naturalization of your parents can earn you citizenship
-Finally, you can apply for naturalization yourself

Naturalization is the term used in immigration law when you are going from permanent resident to citizen. In most cases of naturalization by birth, you have little work to do in applying. You are automatically a U.S. citizen. In some cases, naturalization through your ancestors–if you’re grandparents were U.S. citizens, for example–is an option.

In order to become a U.S. citizen, the majority of immigrants need to first be permanent residents. That means applying for green cards. Green card holders have to follow U.S. laws in order to remain in the country.

How do you keep a green card?
You first must follow all U.S. laws. It doesn’t always have to be the major crime or felony that you break. Small things such as being caught with drugs in your possession can lead to losing your green card and being deported. Also, if you try to use fraud to get your green card, or helped someone else illegally get a green card, you can be deported.

Just because you get a green card does not mean you can live somewhere else and/or travel for extended periods at your leisure. A common mistake permanent residents make is going away to live in other countries for extended periods. If you leave the U.S. and intend to live in another country, you lose your green card and will have to reapply. Permanent residents must live within the U.S.

The best option is to file for U.S. citizenship so you need not worry about these. Once you earn U.S. citizenship, you must follow the laws but you cannot be deported, you can travel, and you will maintain your citizenship for your entire life. To do this, you can hire an immigration lawyer to first get a green card, if you don’t have one, and then to successfully file for U.S. citizenship.