Green Card Requirement & Welfare Benefits

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Green card holders or permanent residents of the United States are eligible to receive state sponsored educational benefits and programs including Social Security, retirement and health benefits, according to America Green Card. A green card can be obtained by winning a visa lottery or through employer or family sponsorship. Refugees and qualified asylum applicants are also eligible to receive green cards. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides a list of eligibility requirements for obtaining a green card on its website.

Green Card Holders

Green card holders are permanent residents of the United States; they are authorized to legally work and reside in the country, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Qualified individuals receive a permanent residence card from the Citizenship and Immigration Service as proof of their status. Green card applicants who qualify for residency through family and employer sponsorship, and asylum applicants must follow specific application requirements; they must also pay the required fee by filing an immigrant petition. The Citizenship and Immigration Service reviews individual applications on a case-by-case basis and may grant green cards to individuals who do not fall under the general applicant categories.


Parents and spouses of a U.S. citizen can file a petition for permanent residency on behalf of their child, husband or wife. U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years of age, according to the Citizenship and Immigration Service. Employers can also sponsor skilled workers and professionals or individuals with exceptional qualifications to become permanent residents of the United States. Refugees and asylum seekers must reside in the United States for at least one year prior to filing a petition for a green card. All applicants for a green card must demonstrate their eligibility for admission into the United States before their application for permanent residency will be considered.


Green card holders are free to work and live in all 50 states. Permanent residents residing in the United States for five years or longer are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Green card holders including refugees and asylum seekers qualify for health care, food programs and non-cash social service benefits including long term care. Welfare benefits are provided according to income and family size; similar to U.S. citizens, green card holders must meet specific eligibility requirements to qualify for welfare benefits.


The 1996 Welfare Reform Act has made significant changes to the kinds of benefits that non-citizens who are legal U.S. residents can receive, according to the Brookings Institution. Because non-citizens pay taxes, these reforms have become controversial. In 2002, Congress reauthorized welfare benefits that were reformed in 1996 by creating categories for determining welfare eligibility criteria for qualified and non-qualified green card holders. Congress has decided that qualified green card holders who are eligible to receive welfare benefits include families with limited income and resources.


About the Author

Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.