19 Advantages and Disadvantages of a Green Card

A green card is formally called a Permanent Resident Card. It is a document that the United States issues to immigrants under the guidance of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is evidence that the holder of the card has the privilege of permanent residence in the country. About 13.2 million people are currently in possession of this identification, with almost 9 million of them eligible for citizenship.

Green card holders have an opportunity to apply for citizenship after continuously residing in the U.S. for at least five years. There must also be evidence of “good moral character” to complete that process. Anyone who is younger than 18 automatically receives citizenship if they have at least one parent who is already a citizen.

Most applications for a green card get decided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. An immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals can also grant permanent residency under specific conditions. Any authorized federal judge can accomplish the same by issuing and signing an injunction.

List of the Advantages of a Green Card

1. A green card gives you the rights and responsibilities of a citizen.
When an immigrant receives a green card, then that person receives the same rights and responsibilities as someone with full citizenship. That means everything from due process to freedom of speech applies to that person. It allows for financial aid applications, and the individual can work anywhere they want in the country. If someone works for at least ten years, then they can even be eligible for Social Security benefits with this status.

2. You can sponsor your immediate relatives for green cards.
If an immigrant receives approval for a green card to give them permanent residence, then they can sponsor their immediate family members to receive the same benefits. The United States defines the people who qualify for this benefit as spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21.

It may also be possible to sponsor extended family members by using the Preferred Family category. Although it may not result in an immediate green card, this benefit could result in a visa application approval that may one day lead to permanent residency.

3. Green card holders can contribute to political campaigns.
Politics is a way of life in the United States. It’s an essential component of American culture. Most people see political involvement as a patriotic virtue. Although green card holders cannot vote in local, state, or federal elections until they become a citizen, the U.S. Federal Election Committee does allow individuals with this documentation to contribute financially to their preferred party.

4. It is easier to travel to and from the United States.
You must meet a residency standard to continue holding a green card, but this documentation also makes it easier to travel internationally. The green card is a symbol of an immigrant’s permanent lawful status in the country. That means American immigration services must admit anyone who displays a valid card when they reach a border crossing.

That’s why having an expired green card can be problematic. If you know that your 10-year window expires soon, then submit your renewal application as soon as you can to ensure your continued status in this country.

5. Green card holders have access to more career opportunities.
An employer must sponsor an immigrant who comes to the United States on a work visa. If someone holds a green card, then they are free to work almost anywhere in the country. It even gives them the right to become an entrepreneur to establish a company of their own if they prefer.

As long as this documentation and status remain current, this benefit doesn’t expire. Qualified work will also help individuals to qualify for their Social Security benefits.

6. It comes with less paperwork.
The documentation requirements for a green card are minimal when compared to the other residency permits that exist. Some visas require an annual or biannual renewal and the associated fees that come with that paperwork. When you need to renew a green card, then you must fill out Form I-90 to submit to the USCIS.

Even being awarded a green card is less complicated than other residency arrangements. Some immigrants can receive one through the diversity lottery. Sponsorships are also possible to receive this documentation. Then you can get rid of all of the paperwork by becoming a citizen if you prefer.

7. A criminal record doesn’t always lead to outright denial.
Although a criminal record will complicate the application process for a green card, that circumstance doesn’t always lead to outright denial. You will want to prepare a thorough and accurate application with all relevant information about your history if you are an immigrant who finds themselves in this situation.

If you have any doubt that your past could adversely impact your application, then you should speak with a government-approved non-profit agency or an experienced attorney about your situation.

List of the Disadvantages of a Green Card

1. You must comply with the residency requirement.
When someone receives a green card in the United States, then they must spend enough time in the country to demonstrate permanent ties to it. If you don’t intend to make the U.S. a permanent residence, then this option may not be the correct choice. If you are found in non-compliance with this stipulation, then your status can get changed to “abandonment.”

If you take a trip of more than 180 days or travel internationally frequently, then those actions could be enough to take a green card away. You can apply for a permit for extended travel, but it is also a best practice to consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you have concerns about the logistics of your living arrangements.

2. Green card holders have tax responsibilities to consider.
Several reasons that involve taxation could deter someone from applying for a green card. This status requires someone to declare permanent residency when filing a return. If someone files as a non-resident, then it can immediately impact their status – and even their ability to apply for citizenship one day. Many green card holders find themselves required to pay more in taxes than those with a non-immigrant visa.

Some countries require green cardholders to pay taxes in an immigrant’s home country. The U.S. also requires taxes to get paid. If you have any questions about your global tax responsibilities and are interested in obtaining this document, then you’ll want to speak with an experienced international accountant.

3. It may cause an immigrant to forfeit their home country benefits.
Citizens of certain countries can lose specific benefits when they become a green card holder in the United States. Some immigrants can experience this issue even if they don’t receive the document, but they are choosing to live in the U.S. for an extended period. Australians can lose their right to vote in local elections after not returning for six years.

Every nation has its own laws regarding the status of citizens that live in a different country. Each immigrant must research their local regulations to determine if there are benefits that they want to keep before applying for a green card.

4. Receiving a green card can cause a loss of support staff.
If a foreign nation is the primary visa holder with a support team attached to the document, obtaining a green card can invalidate the status of everyone else. That’s why someone who has had the same people with them for several years may decide to maintain their current status. A director with O-1 status would lose everyone associated with them with this disadvantage.

When you are in the U.S. on a work visa, then you’ll want to speak with an immigration attorney about your status to see if there are options available to keep your support staff.

5. Immigrants must comply with a medical exam requirement.
Anyone who applies for a green card must complete a required medical exam as part of the application process. This disadvantage may include vaccinations that may involve moral or religious objections against receiving. The United States recognizes only a handful of circumstances that justify a waiver of this requirement, so it can be a deterrent to the entire process.

If you aren’t healthy enough to pass the exam, then the application status could be in jeopardy until you can reach a stage where you are.

6. If someone commits a felony, then it can revoke their status.
If someone is a lawful resident of the United States, then their criminal activity will become part of the discovery process during a renewal. Any felony conviction, even for a minor offense, can be enough to justify deportation. The green card expires every ten years, so you must go for the documentation even with a criminal record. The Immigration and Nationality Act contains a long list of crimes that qualify for deportation, and some of them may even be misdemeanors.

7. The processing time for a green card application or renewal is lengthy.
The USCIS recommends that anyone with a green card submit their renewal application within six months of the expiration date to ensure their status doesn’t get interrupted. Depending on the field office or service center that you must use, the estimate range could be over a year. The time range that the USCIS offers is based on the date the documentation gets received. The initial issuance of a green card can be between 8-13 months at any office.

If an immigrant delays their application process, the expiration date on their green card isn’t going to change. Their legal status could change because of this disadvantage.

8. You might be given a conditional green card.
The standard green card gives the recipient ten years of eligibility as a permanent resident in the United States. Some people might receive a conditional green card instead. If an immigrant receives this document, then it is one that is ineligible for renewal. That person must file a petition to remove the conditions attached to their status 90 days before the expiration date. If someone fails to act on this issue, then that person will lose their permanent resident status.

Family-based conditional permanent residents must file Form I-751 to try to eliminate this disadvantage of the immigration process. Investors and entrepreneurs must file Form I-829.

9. Immigrants cannot appeal a denial of their green card status.
If the United States denies a green card application, then the government will send that person a letter explaining the decision. There is no way to appeal a denial. The only option available is to submit a motion to reopen or reconsider at the same office that made the unfavorable decision. That gives the individual more time to reconsider their action, but the documentation must state new facts and include appropriate evidence for the motion to receive consideration.

A motion to reconsider must show an incorrect application of immigration law or policy. Some decisions may be incorrect based on evidence that’s in the file already.

10. You must carry the green card with you at all times.
Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that anyone who fails to comply with the provisions and regulations of their green card status is guilty of a misdemeanor. That means you must apply for a certificate of registration and receive the card that clearly states your status. If you are over the age of 18, then it must be carried with you at all times and in your personal possession.

11. You don’t need to be convicted of a crime to lose your green card.
From a general standpoint, the definition of a conviction under the immigration laws in the United States is broader than what it is when dealing with criminal law. Any outcome where an individual gets found guilty by a court or admits guilt through a plea bargain can result in a problem with the individual’s immigration status. This disadvantage occurs even if someone gets told that there won’t be a criminal conviction on their record.

If an immigrant were to be arrested on a drug charge, the court might allow that person to participate in a drug treatment program as part of a diversion effort. You wouldn’t have a criminal record in the state where the incident happened, but the USCIS would still consider the incident as a conviction on your record that may qualify for deportation.

12. Any drug-related crime can result in a potential loss of permanent residency.
Any drug-related criminal conviction can make someone ineligible to receive a green card. This disadvantage applies even if the conviction was for possession intended for personal use. The Immigration and Nationality Act only provides one exception to this issue. If you were found to have 30g or less of marijuana for personal use, then you can apply for a waiver when dealing with your green card status. Anything else will make someone become ineligible for a green card unless extraordinary circumstances apply.

Waivers are strictly impossible for anyone convicted of torture or murder offenses.


A green card is an effective way to begin the process of becoming a citizen of the United States. This documentation allows permanent residency for up to 10 years at a time. Once you receive approval, only your decisions will create opportunities for the government to revoke your status.

There can be situations when a conditional green card might not receive renewal. The regulations involved are strict and unforgiving. If you miss a deadline or allow the documentation to expire, then an unfavorable outcome is likely to happen.

The advantages and disadvantages of a green card are essential to consider if you want to live and work in the United States. The complexity of the rules and regulations that involve the U.S. and an immigrant’s home country often require the help of an attorney, an accountant, and other professionals to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.