To become a permanent resident, you need to get an “immigrant” visa, such as the kind offered to spouses or family members of current U.S. citizens, or those who immigrate to the U.S. for work.
The difference between immigrant and non-immigrant visas is this: Immigrant visas are given to people who intend to stay in the United States permanently. Non-immigrant visas are given to people who intend to stay temporarily, such as for educational purposes, or to obtain medical treatment.
If you stay in the United States longer than your visa permits, you could not only be deported but also barred from seeking a visa again in the future. If your visa is about to expire, you may be able to apply for an extension through USCIS.
Typically, you cannot renew your visa or apply for a new visa after it expires, unless you applied for an extension before it expired.
A “Green Card” is the colloquial term for a Lawful Permanent Resident Card, which indicates your ability to legally stay in the United States indefinitely, despite not being a U.S. citizen.
There are many ways to obtain a Green Card. If you want to know more, please contact an immigration attorney for a consultation.
Green Cards remain valid indefinitely but must be renewed once every ten years, with some exceptions.
You can, in some circumstances, apply for a Green Card without having an immigrant visa.. For example, there are “humanitarian” Green Cards that are awarded to refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, and other victims of violent crime. In addition, there is a “diversity lottery” which randomly awards up to 50,000 people per year with Green Cards.
You can potentially become a U.S. citizen if you have a child who is already a U.S. citizen, but it is a long process. Your child with U.S. citizenship must be at least 21 before they can petition on your behalf.
If you are a lawful permanent resident (in other words, if you have a Green Card), you can remain in the United States indefinitely even though you are not a citizen. You may work in any profession you are qualified for, and you receive the full protection of U.S. law.
You can be deported as a lawful permanent resident, if you commit a “crime of moral turpitude.” This is defined as a crime that is “done recklessly or with evil intent, and which shocks the public conscience as inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between people or to society in general.”
You can still receive a Green Card if you had a prior apprehension at the border, but you should speak to an immigration attorney to do a Freedom of Information Act request to find out more information about your type of apprehension.