The Trump administration continues to recommend legislation that will limit the number of immigrants who can come to the U.S. annually and be more restrictive about who is allowed to immigrate to the U.S. Obtaining a green card is the first step to gaining U.S. citizenship. It is important to understand what a green card provides and what it doesn’t. These facts about green cards are compiled from information published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

What is a green card?

Officially known as a permanent residency card, a green card allows a non-citizen to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely.

Who is eligible for a green card?

There are several categories of immigrants who are eligible to apply for a green card. You can apply through family relationships (spouses of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens who are over 21 or an unmarried child under 21 of a U.S. citizen). Green cards can be obtained through employment. Preference is given to workers who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Physicians who agree to serve in a clinical practice in an underserved area can petition for a national interest waiver. There are numerous other categories of people who are eligible to apply for a green card. It is always wise to consult with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer. The USCIS website provides additional information.

How does one apply for a green card?

Every green card category has specific procedures to follow. If you are outside the U.S., you must file an initial petition at an American consulate. If you are already in the U.S., you can apply for what is known as “adjustment of status.” All applicants will be assigned an immigration visa number. It can take six months or more to obtain a green card.

What benefits come with a green card?

Besides being able to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, green card holders can sponsor other family members who wish to apply for a green card. After five years, permanent residents can apply for citizenship. Green card holders also can apply for Social Security, retirement and tax benefits and insurance coverage

Other benefits include eligibility for Social Security, retirement and tax benefits, insurance coverage and grants for research and education. Green card holders also can apply for financing of purchases such as a house or car.