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Everything About Green Cards Worth Knowing

Green Cards

You might have heard the term “green card” before if you want to become a US citizen or work and live in the US legally. We will talk about green cards in the following article. It’s a concept you should understand if you’re not a US citizen but wish to stay in the US and find gainful employment.

What Exactly is a Green Card?

You might hear some people call a green card a permanent resident card. They’re the same thing. A green card is something that the USCIS issues. In other words, it’s a card that legally allows you to live and work in the United States if you were not born here.

The green card itself is a very official-looking piece of identification. It will have your picture on it, as well as several other key information pieces.

If you have one, that allows you to remain in the US as a lawful permanent resident. However, if you’re a green card holder instead of an actual US citizen, that makes it a lot easier for the US government to deport you back to your origin country if you do something wrong, like break the law egregiously.

Obviously, you should never break the law anyway, but as a green card holder, you must exercise even greater care. If you get in a lot of trouble, like if you commit a felony, the US government might pull your green card status if they feel it’s appropriate.

How Much Does a Green Card Cost?

Basic green card application forms cost $1,140. However, not everyone can get one of those. The green card cost will vary depending on the person applying.

Say that you’re an applicant living in the US already. You apply to get a green card through the family sponsorship form. The government also refers to this form as an I-130. If so, you’ll need to pay a minimum of $535.

The basic green card form is also the one the government calls the I-485 form. That’s the one that costs $1,140, but you’ll also have to pay an additional $85 for your card to feature biometric information, which the government requires with new cards. Biometric information includes things like your fingerprint or a retinal scan.

If you live within the US, the green card should cost you $1,760. That includes the biometric information, the money you have to pay for the family sponsorship form, plus the regular $535 fee.

What About if You Reside Outside of the US?

If you live outside of the US, the green card actually will not cost you as much in most instances. That seems counterintuitive, but that’s how it is.

Say that you live outside of the country, but you’re applying for the green card. You’ll typically need to pay $535 for the family sponsorship form, sometimes called the I-130. You’ll need to pay $120 for the family support form.

You must pay $325 for state department processing, and you also must pay $220 for the USCIS immigrant fee. Altogether, you’re looking at $1,200 for the green card, a little less than what you’ll pay if you’re a non-native person already living in the US.

That might seem steep, but you need to come up with that money if you want your green card. Now, let’s talk about any additional money you’ll need to produce in order to get one.

Medical Examinations

You might wonder whether you’ll need to do a medical examination as part of the green card application process. The government expects you to get one, so be ready for that.

You will pay about $200 in fees when you see a medical provider. That’s the average, though. You might pay a bit more or less depending on the provider you see, so shop around to see if you can find someone who will do it for less than that.

How Can You Pay for These Fees?

If you’re trying to immigrate to the US, and you’re getting a green card because of that, you might not have a ton of money saved up. In fact, you might have very little.

You should see if you can borrow the money from a relative or friend if that’s an option for you. You must pay the fees we mentioned, but you may not have to pay them all at once, so you should find that helpful.

You must pay the fees we mentioned over time since you can apply for different parts of the green card separately. That’s probably the one saving grace if you’re not living in the US already as you go through this process.

If you already live in the US, though, you’ll need to pay all of these fees at once. That can work against you, but again, if you have a friend or relative from whom you can borrow the money, that’s probably the best way to go in this scenario.

What About Other Possible Green Card Costs?

While we’ve talked about the typical green card costs for both those living in the US already and those outside of it, it’s always possible you may have to come up with some additional money if you want to go through this process. You may need to pay someone to take care of translation services for you if you’re a non-native English speaker.

You may need to pay for legal services if you need to hire a lawyer who can explain the green card’s ins and outs to you. Many individuals choose to hire an attorney so they know they’re not skipping any steps that go along with this delicate process.

You might need to get certain vaccinations before you get your green card. That’s one thing that they’ll ask you about when you get the medical examination. These vaccinations don’t usually cost all that much, but you’ll likely need to have money on hand to cover that.

You may have to pay some photography and shipping costs. The photography will cover the picture you’ll use that will appear on the green card. The shipping costs will get the green card to you once the government has it ready for use.

You might also have to think about any possible travel fees. Maybe you need to travel to get to a location where the government does the green card processing. Perhaps you reside in a rural area, and you need to pay to rent a car to take you to the appropriate location. You may also need money for gas if you have a vehicle already.

What Can You Do to Make This Process Easier for Yourself?

If you already know that you have a skill set that makes you desirable in the US, you can probably feel confident that you will get yourself a green card if you just go through all of the required steps. However, hiring a lawyer can help you if you want to make sure not to make a mistake.

A misstep can set you back, and it could result in the US deporting you while you figure out how to regroup and try again. The right attorney will know all the steps that go into the green card process since they’ve probably helped many individuals go through it.

If you’re not sure if you’ve found the right lawyer or law firm to help you, ask them whether they’ve done this before. They should have a lengthy and successful track record of helping individuals just like yourself get green cards.

They ought to have someone on staff who speaks your native tongue if English is not your first language. They should also know to contact you if something changes during the green card process, and they need additional information or anything else from you to better facilitate the steps we mentioned.

You can also rely on family members and friends already living in the US for help as you get closer to attaining the green card. You might talk to anyone you know who has gone through the process already. They might have some insights that can help you, and they can also act as your cheerleaders as you get closer to reaching your goal.

Once you have that green card, you’ll know that you can stay here in the country legally and work to support yourself. You will not have all the rights that a citizen does yet. For instance, you can’t vote, but you can do lots of other things, like get an apartment, apply for credit cards, and many other perks Americans enjoy.

In time, you may decide that you want to use that green card as a citizenship springboard. You can become a naturalized US citizen if you pay the fees and take the test.

If you never become a US citizen, that’s fine too. That green card allows you to live here comfortably, so you might feel okay leaving things that way.

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