U.S. immigration law, which is essentially just a series of lists of who can stay, who has to leave, who cannot come in at all, etc., breaks down everybody coming to the U.S. into one of two categories: You are either an “immigrant” or a “nonimmigrant.” That’s the basic fundamental building block of our immigration system.
An immigrant is someone coming to the U.S. indefinitely, generally either intending to remain permanently or for an extended period of time. Immigrants are those people who have the right to live and work in the U.S. Nonimmigrants are those who are coming to the U.S. must be temporarily. That is, they are often required to have a home out of the U.S.; the purpose of their trip to the U.S. is temporary, i.e., has a definite end date; and, when that end date is reached they will return home. Perhaps the most common example is someone visiting the U.S. to see relatives for a month and then go back home or a similar visitor for pleasure-type situation.
But, a “Green Card,” is the document that indicates you have been registered as a lawful permanent resident or, in some instances, a lawful, conditional resident. A green card (or “permanent resident card”) is the document that is emblematic of your status as a lawful resident of the United States: Someone who is an immigrant, who is legally recognized as having the ability to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. That is, there is no necessary end date to their stay here in the U.S.
It is important to note that most people with green cards are eligible after either 3 or 5 years, depending on how they got their green card, to file for naturalization and become U.S. citizens.
Learn more about the immigration services provided by Levin and Pangilinan PC.