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The Green Card

The green card is the goal of all immigrants to the United States. The card is not actually green, though it once was. It gives you all the rights and responsibilities of a citizen (except voting and consular protection abroad) and is a first step toward citizenship. Its official title is the Alien Registration Receipt Card. You’ll be required to carry the green card with you at all times. Outside of dealings with the INS, you’ll probably only need to show the card when you apply for a job. Since employers may now be penalized for hiring illegal aliens, they check documentation more carefully than in the past.

Tax and Military Obligations. The Internal Revenue service taxes anyone, regardless of visa status, who resides in the U.S. more than 180 days a year. Though the United States has a volunteer army and no longer has a military draft, it requires males turning eighteen (if born in 1963 or later years) to register with the Selective Service System (just in case). The law applies to permanent residents as well as citizens.

Temporary Green Card. When you arrive in the United States with an immigrant visa, you’ll have a temporary Green Card stamped into your passport. You’ll receive your real Green Card in the mail a few months later. Because the system is so slow, you might be kept waiting a long time. Make sure the INS has an accurate American mailing address for you. If more than six months go by, you’ll have to visit or write the INS to straighten the matter out.

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