Many people wonder if they can legally work in the United States when they get their green card. The answer is yes, unless you are specifically told not to by a specific company or organization. However, it is smart to consider what kind of job you want before getting your green card because there are certain jobs that require citizenship to obtain them and companies will not give you a work permit for those jobs until you become a citizen.
But what is a green card?
A green card is a legal document that authorizes you to live and work in the United States as a permanent resident. In other words, it gives you the same rights as a U.S. citizen, except for voting and holding office, unless you are already a naturalized citizen.
Am I eligible to get a green card?
You may be eligible to receive a green card based on the following:
- Family: If you are married to a U.S. citizen, over 21 years of age and can prove the relationship is genuine (proof of valid marriage certificate), you may be eligible to apply for a green card based on family preference.
- Employment: If your employer will sponsor your green card (through PERM Labor Certification process) or if you are already in the U.S. and can find an employer to sponsor you, you may be eligible for a green card based on employment preference.
- Asylum/Refugee: If you are present in the United States or at a port of entry, have been persecuted or fear future persecution due to your “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” you may be eligible to apply for asylum (for persons already in the U.S) or refugee status (for persons outside of the U.S.).
How to apply for a green card:
- Fill out forms and pay fees
After determining your eligibility, you must fill out forms and pay fees for the application. You can find green card application forms on the web site of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Submit forms to USCIS Regional Service Center
After filling out the forms, you must submit them to a local USCIS Regional Service Center. This may require an interview and fingerprinting, so you will need to visit a Fingerprint Charting Site first.
- Wait for a decision
It can take several months or years before USCIS makes a decision on your green card. If the decision is “approval,” you will receive your green card in the mail and can begin working in the United States immediately after receiving it. If the decision is “denial,” you will be informed of the reason for denial and may reapply for a green card if eligible to do so.
Do I need an immigration lawyer to get a green card?
No, you do not need an immigration lawyer to file for a green card. However, if you are filing for a family-based green card or if your case is complicated, it may be wise to consult with an immigration attorney with expertise in green card to make sure that the process will go smoothly.