A visa allows you to enter the country, but it has an expiration date. Many people living in the United States on visas worry about what will happen when their visa expires. There are extensions available, but eventually you will want a more permanent solution.

If you want to stay in the country, securing a Green Card or permanent resident card is often a good solution. A Green Card can allow you to stay in the country indefinitely or be a tool to help you secure naturalized citizenship.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles Green Cards just like they do visas. You will have to request an adjustment of status from the USCIS in order to secure a Green Card and become a lawful permanent resident in the United States.

How adjustment of status works

To apply for the adjustment of your status, you typically already need to be in the United States on a lawful visa or have a visa waiver. You may qualify for consideration based on your employment status, family circumstances or other factors, such as an engagement or marriage to a United States citizen.

The USCIS will review information about you, ranging from a background check to information about your employment and behavior while in the United States. Provided that you qualify, you then have to provide biometric information, such as fingerprints. You may have to do an interview.

Finally, if approved, you receive a green card which, in theory, allows you to stay in the United States indefinitely. You can live, work, own property and possibly even start a business as a permanent resident.

A Green Card will not end the threat of deportation

One of the biggest differences between naturalized citizens and lawful permanent residents is that people with green cards can still get deported. If you wind up accused of serious criminal acts or if you meet other criteria for removal, a green card may not protect you.

The good news is that anyone, whether they have a visa or a green card, has the right to defend themselves against a deportation attempt. Getting help with your immigration paperwork and with any hearings if you face criminal charges or potential removal is very important.