Congratulate me, my permanent resident (aka green) card arrived today although, slightly disappointingly, its not at all green. Our application to adjust status was approved on Jan 13th while I was in Melbourne and we went to visit our local USCIS office on the 24th to hand over photos and get our index fingers printed for the cards. I was told it could take up to 6 months to get the physical card but in the end it was only 3 weeks - which was nice.
Having a green card has the following advantages:
- Permanent residence - my previous visa could have been extended up to a total of 7 years but after that I would have had to leave the USA for at least a year and then reapply for a new visa. The new card is valid for 10 years and can be renewed as required.
- Fast track when entering USA - green card holders can use the "US citizens and permanent residents" line. With my previous visa I had to wait in the "aliens" line which can sometimes be kind of slow (I was once stuck in the immigration queue in LA for 2+ hours). There's also no need to fill in any immigration forms just like when returning home to the UK.
- Open employment authorization - my previous visa required me to only work for my current employer, any change would have required getting a different visa. Alison can now also work though that's not on the cards in the near future.
We still don't get to vote in presidential elections and could be deported for a misdemeanor but for all intents and purposes we are now free to stay here for as long as we like. It took a little over 2 years to get through the green card process. I was quite fortunate as I qualified for a 'manager or executive' visa in the first place and that allowed me to skip one of the longer steps in the process. If anyone reading this is in the queue for a green card, good luck and hang on in there.