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The Green Card Process: Do's and Don'ts

The process of obtaining a green card can be time consuming and complicated. Not all foreign individuals are eligible to work in the United States, but if you are, following this list will better protect your green card status.


DO follow the instructions on your Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forms exactly. If the USCIS didn't think the information was important, it would not have included it on the form. Failure to provide all of the information requested could result in significant processing delays.

DO attach all the documents called for in the forms and provide appropriate translations where necessary. In most cases, the USCIS will not process the forms if documents are missing.

DO follow the USCIS photograph instructions. Your local USCIS office may even have an onsite photographer. It is worth inquiring.

DO call your local USCIS office, or visit the office personally if you have questions. You can also access the USCIS website.

DO request an interpreter if you have trouble understanding English. Many USCIS offices have interpreters on hand. To be safe, you may want to bring your own interpreter.

DO hire an immigration attorney if you have been previously denied entry to the United States, deported, convicted of a crime, made misrepresentations to the USCIS, overstayed a visa, or are currently in the country illegally.

DO tell your attorney about any previously denied entries to the United States, deportations, convictions, misrepresentations made to the USCIS, unauthorized employment, or overstayed visas. Your attorney will be able to determine whether any of these problems can be remedied or whether they are significant relative to your current immigration goals. If your failure to reveal potential immigration problems leads to your filing immigration forms with false information, you could be deported and barred from returning to the United States.

DO consult an attorney if you are contemplating accepting public benefits such as welfare or participation in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. If the USCIS has reason to believe that you have become a "public charge," you could lose your green card.


DON'T commit any crimes. Your green card will not keep you from being deported.

DON'T engage in politically subversive activities.

DON'T smuggle other foreign nationals into the United States.

DON'T charge others for legal advise. Even though your experience of obtaining a green card may have made you an expert, it is not legal to practice law without a license.

DON'T create the impression that you are not living in the United States once you have obtained your green card. If you leave the United States for too long, you may lose your green card.

DON'T lie on any USCIS form.

DON'T lie to USCIS officers.

DON'T leave parts of your forms blank, or assume that a part of the form is unimportant. If the information really does not apply to you, insert "N/A" or "none." For example, if you are not married, you should put an "N/A" on the portions of the forms asking for spousal information. But if the form asks for your addresses for the past five years, you must supply complete addresses with no time periods unaccounted for.

DON'T open the envelope with your medical exam results in it. If you want to see the results of your exam, most physicians will supply you with a copy.

Discuss the Green Card Process with an Attorney

Applying for a green card allows you to live and work in the United States indefinitely, and is the first step toward becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Considering the importance of a green card, it's a good idea to contact an immigration attorney who can answer any questions and guide you through the green card process.

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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.

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