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I Just Received My Green Card. Now What?

17 May

After months or even years of waiting, you have finally received your green card. While excited about your new status as a permanent resident, you might be wondering what comes next. Below are some helpful tips, including how to help maintain your green card status and how to start preparing for your naturalization application.

Apply for a New Social Security Card

Once you become a permanent resident, you must carry your green card on you. You also are eligible to receive a new Social Security card without a work restriction on it. You should apply for a new Social Security card so that the Social Security Administration can be updated on your new immigration status and you can receive a new card with the same Social Security number, but without a work restriction on the card. 

Maintain Your Permanent Residence in the U.S.

Remember that green cards are issued to individuals who will permanently reside in the United States. If you do not maintain your residence by living in the U.S., you may be deemed to have abandoned your green card.

If you plan on having a prolonged absence from the U.S. of six months or more, you can apply for a re-entry permit before departing on the trip to indicate your intention of preserving your permanent residence despite the absence. Be aware, however, that filing your U.S. tax return for foreign income earned (IRS Form 2555) based on claiming to be a bona fide resident of another country would indicate to the U.S. government that you are not permanently residing in the United States and may have abandoned your U.S. lawful permanent residency. Also, be aware that extended absences and claiming the foreign income earned tax credit could delay when you can apply for citizenship through naturalization or lead to a denial of your naturalization case.

Calendar Important Dates

Be sure to set calendar reminders so that you don’t miss important filing dates.

If you are a conditional permanent resident, your green card will be issued with a validity of 2 years, and you must file a separate petition to remove the conditions during the 90 days before the card expires. You are still required to file to remove the conditions even if you are separated or your marriage ends. If you do not timely file to remove the conditions before your 2-year green card expires and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) becomes aware of that, then ICE could detain you in an immigration detention center.

If you plan on applying for naturalization, you generally can file as early as 90 days before being a permanent resident for 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen). You are not required to apply for naturalization at this time, or at all, but many people are eager to become U.S. citizens as early as possible. 

Unless you are a conditional permanent resident, your green card should be issued for a 10-year validity period. If you don’t become a U.S. citizen before the expiration of the card, you should apply for a new card.

Start Getting Ready for Your Application for Naturalization

Although you might not be eligible to apply for naturalization for a while, there are steps you can take now to start preparing for the process.

When you apply for naturalization, you will need to provide your travel history for the qualifying period, including the date you left the U.S., the date you returned, and the countries you visited on each trip. Remembering this information can be challenging, especially for business people and jetsetters who travel frequently. You should keep a travel log and update it each time you travel so that you don’t have to dig for the information when it’s time to apply for naturalization.

You should also remember that sometimes even minor brushes with the law can impact eligibility for naturalization. For instance, even though marijuana use is legal in several states, it is still against U.S. Federal law. Marijuana use and other violations of U.S. drug laws can impact your eligibility to become a U.S. citizen, even in states that take a more relaxed view toward recreational drug use.

If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26, you are required to register with the Selective Service. Be sure to keep your registration card because you’ll be required to submit a copy of it with your naturalization application.

The tips above are helpful reminders that will help you be better prepared to maintain your green card status and apply for naturalization. This is not a comprehensive list of eligibility requirements and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any specific questions about the maintenance of your green card status or eligibility for naturalization, please contact Foster LLP at 713-229-8733 (Houston) or at 512- 478-9475 (Austin), or email