A permanent residence card, also known as a permanent visa or a green card, is a legal document issued by the federal government. It indicates that a person is lawfully allowed to permanently live and work in the United States. Permanent residence status may result in the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship.

A permanent resident alien is someone who is not a citizen of the United States, and is living in the United States under a recognized and valid immigration visa. This grants them permanent resident status in order to work and live in the United States indefinitely. Permanent resident status may also refer to immigrants who have entered the country under a conditional residency status, and have also had their status adjusted to that of a permanent resident.

Permanent residents receive many of the abilities and privileges that are inherently granted to United States citizens. A permanent resident may legally:

  • Legally work at any job in the United States;
  • Live permanently anywhere in the United States;
  • Apply for a driver’s license in your state;
  • Attend public schools and colleges;
  • Purchase or own a firearm;
  • Own property; and
  • Stay in the United States without the need to return to their home countries. This is because as long as a green card remains valid, as a permanent resident, you may travel to and from your home country at any time.

Some examples of non-U.S. residents who may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident include:

  • An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, unmarried child who is under 21 years of age, or a parent who is 21 years of age or older;
  • An immediate relative of a lawful permanent resident who meets the age requirements and is either a spouse, parent, or child;
  • People admitted entry into the U.S. who are the fiancé or child of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen, although the fiancé of a U.S. citizen may only file Form I-485 after they marry the U.S. citizen to whom they are currently engaged;
  • The widow or widower of a U.S. citizen;
  • Immigrant workers who are sponsored by U.S. employers or qualify as an alien entrepreneur;
  • Those who meet the criteria as a special immigrant, such as religious workers, or have been living in the United State for at least one year as a refugee or asylee;
  • Those who are a victim of human trafficking or another crime; and/or
  • Those who have won the diversity visa lottery.

What Agency Grants Green Cards?

Immigration oversight originally belonged to the Office of Immigration in the Treasury Department. By 1906, legislatures revised the process for citizenship and created the Bureau of Immigration to supervise the naturalization of immigrants in the United States.

In 1933, the tasks that belonged to the Bureau were condensed and assigned to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) agency. INS then became responsible for federal oversight of naturalization and immigration throughout the country. After the passing of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (“HSA”), the duties fell to a division of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) known as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”). The USCIS is solely responsible for administering benefits associated with green card applications.

Additionally, the HSA resulted in the creation of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), which are two different federal law enforcement agencies charged with enforcing border security and immigration laws.

However, for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the USCIS as that is the primary federal government agency responsible for granting green cards and green card status to immigrants in the United States.

How Does The Green Card Provisional Waiver Work?

In general an immigrant who is not eligible for an adjustment of status while remaining in the country must apply for an immigrant visa. This requires them to undergo an interview at an embassy or consulate located in their home country, or a country outside the U.S.

If an immigrant is undocumented, and leaves the country for their visa interview, they could potentially be categorized as inadmissible and barred from re-entering the United States for three to ten years.

As of March 4, 2013, undocumented immigrants can apply for a provisional waiver to their green card applications. This waiver helps them obtain an answer to their visa application before they leave the country for their visa interview at the embassy or consulate.

If the waiver is approved, they can leave the United States for their interview and will be allowed to return as a legal permanent resident. However, if the waiver is denied, they will not receive a visa and the inadmissibility rule still applies. What this means is that if the immigrant leaves the United States, they will not be able to return for three to ten years.

The benefit to applying for the provisional waiver is that you will receive a decision on your waiver before leaving the United States for your consular interview. The waiver process is intended to shorten the amount of time that family members are separated while their loved ones obtain immigrant visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.

Am I Eligible For A Green Card Provisional Waiver?

Eligibility to file for the provisional waiver requires that you are:

  • At least 17 years old;
  • Currently residing in the United States;
  • An immediate relative to a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident;
  • Awaiting a consular interview; and
  • Inadmissible to the U.S. because you have unlawfully spent more than 180 days in the country.

Additionally, you must not have committed any crimes or fraud that would bar you from being in the country.

For the purposes of the waiver, immediate relative means that you are the spouse or child of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Any other familial relationship does not qualify for immediate relative status. In addition to being an immediate relative to a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, you must show that your relative would suffer “extreme hardship” if the waiver is not granted.

An example of this would be how the relative in question must be a spouse or a parent, and the hardship must be more than just the emotional hardship of being separated. You will likely need to submit a considerable amount of evidence in order to prove the extreme hardship requirement of the waiver application

Currently, the filing fee for the provisional waiver is $630.00, which is payable by:

  • Money order;
  • Personal check; or
  • Cashier’s check.

If you are younger than 79, biometric services (such as fingerprinting) are also required, with a fee of $85.00. You must visit an Application Support Center (“ASC”) to have your fingerprints taken, and USCIS will send you an appointment notice once the biometric fee has been paid.

To actually file your application, you must fill out Form I-601A, which is the Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. This should be mailed to the appropriate address along with your supporting documentation.

Do I Need A Lawyer To File A Green Card Provisional Waiver?

If you are considering filing the provisional waiver, you should consult with a qualified immigration lawyer to help you navigate the United States immigration system. An attorney can assess your circumstances and determine whether you are likely to be granted a provisional waiver. Additionally, your lawyer can review your application to ensure that you are not removed from the country.