green cards

A refugee family needs to obtain a Permanent Resident Card – also known as a Green Card – for each person in the family to prove their legal status. With these cards, families are allowed to live and work within the United States. If they travel abroad, a Green Card is used to reenter the U.S.  


Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders apply for their Green Cards while still in their home country, Afghanistan or Iraq. By applying for Permanent Residence in their home country, Green Cards are received by the refugee family's World Relief caseworker anywhere from 2 to 6 months after arrival. This is one of the benefits holders receive as part of the SIV program.  


Traditional UN Refugees and those who are part of the Lautenberg program (Slavic families) need to apply for their Green Cards one year after arrival. One to two months before they submit their application, refugees need to have a medical check-up and receive the required vaccinations. When submitting their application, they need to pay a submission fee but there is an option to have the fee waived. Once the application is submitted, it takes about 6 months to receive the Green Cards.   


Green Cards are valid for up to 10 years. After 5 years living in the United States, refugees can become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process and therefore will not need to renew their Green Cards if they are citizens. 


All Green Cards for Afghan SIV holders arrive to the World Relief Sacramento Office. If the refugee family you are volunteering with has not received their Green Cards after 2 months, please do not instruct them to change the address listed to receive them as this could further delay their green card processing. If you are a volunteer and your partnered refugee family has questions about their Green card, you can empower them to contact their World Relief Caseworker or you can contact your Volunteer Coordinator.


For more information on Green Cards, visit the USCIS's Guide for New Immigrants or USCIS's Green Card webpage.