How to Get a Temporary Green Card

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • A temporary Green Card allows the holder to live and work in the U.S. for two years, with eligibility based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or having an EB-5 investor visa.
  • The process involves obtaining an immigrant visa, adjusting status, and renewing the Green Card, which expires after two years.
  • Conditional residents must prove eligibility for permanent residency to remove the conditional status.
  • The ultimate goal is to obtain permanent residence (Green Card) in the U.S.

All Green Cards weren’t created equal. Some last longer than others. But as you probably already know, Green Cards don’t last forever. All Green Cards must be renewed before it expires to maintain the rights and obligations it grants to its holders. What can you do and how do renew your Green Card?

There are different categories for which Green Cards are issued. Today we will discuss the temporary Green Card. What is it and how do you renew it? Let’s take a look.

What is a Temporary Green Card?

A temporary Green Card has the exact same effect as a normal Green Card. It also looks similar to a normal Green Card. It allows the holder (or also known as the beneficiary) the right to live and work in the U.S., but it is not a passport. You’ll still need to produce your passport from your country of citizenship whenever you need to cross the border. The time you spend in the U.S. on a temporary Green Card also counts towards the years of permanent residency required for you to become a U.S. citizen (which is between 3 and 5 years depending on the conditions of your permanent residency).

So essentially it is the same as a normal Green Card, but it expires after two years. Thereafter, you’ll need to remove the conditional status on your Green Card for it to be valid for longer periods of time. Otherwise you’ll be subject to removal procedures (which is where U.S. Immigration removes you from the country).

Certain groups of people become permanent residents of the U.S. based on certain conditions. They either became permanent residents through a marriage with a U.S. citizen or they have an EB-5 investor visa (people also known as alien entrepreneurs). In both these instances, the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) would like to test the holder’s eligibility for permanent residency in the two-year period and, therefore, makes use of a temporary Green Card.

How to Get a Temporary Green Card

So, you’re thinking about immigrating to the U.S. and are considering a temporary Green Card. How do you get one and are you even eligible? Below are the basic steps you need to follow in order to get a temporary Green Card. Remember, your situation is still unique and might require a few extra steps. Consult an immigration attorney to get the best possible advice.

Here are the basic steps.


There are two categories that make you eligible for a temporary Green Card. Firstly, a marriage to a U.S. citizen and secondly, an EB-5 investor visa. You need to fulfill the criteria for one of these two categories to be eligible. You either need to be married to (or yet to be married) to a U.S. citizen with the intent to stay with them in the U.S. or you need to be eligible for an EB-5 investor visa.

Visa Approval

You may be surprised to learn that you’ll first need an immigrant visa before you can be eligible for a temporary Green Card. The different categories of immigrants have differing limits on the number of people allowed to immigrate to the U.S. Newlywed spouses don’t have to worry about available visas, however. There is also no limit on the number of visas available for the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

There are only 10,000 visas available per year to EB-5 investors. You’ll need to be one of those 10,000 if you want a visa. People born in mainland China have an extra measure to take into account. There is a waiting list for people from mainland China who apply for an EB-5 visa. It can take 5 years and even longer before there is a visa for you.

Essentially, you need an immigrant visa allocated to you before you can stay in the U.S. on a temporary Green Card.

Immigrant Visa Number

You need an immigrant visa number to prove that an immigrant visa is actually allocated to you. You need to use this visa number in your application for permanent residency. The U.S. State Department’s National Visa Center issues these visas.

Adjustment of Status

Your situation will determine how you go about this. People who are in the U.S. do an adjustment of status. Your petition, which is the application for your permanent residency (or temporary Green Card in this instance), needs to be filed in accordance with the requirements set out by the USCIS.

People applying from abroad will follow a consular processing route. You need to apply through a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. You will attend your interviews and appointments in your home country and only enter the U.S. when you receive the proper authorization (your temporary Green Card or other paperwork that grants you the right to enter the U.S.).

Temporary Green Card Renewal

These documents don’t last forever. That is ultimately why it’s called a temporary Green Card. You have what is called a conditional resident status and you need to remove the conditional status by renewing your Green Card. What do you do when it nears the expiry date? Let’s take a look.

There are two categories of conditional residents and we’ll be looking at each separately. You’ll need to start the Green Card renewal process within 6 months of the expiry of your temporary Green Card. In some cases, 90 days before expiry is enough, but ask an immigration attorney when is the best time to start your renewal process.

Removing Conditional Status for Entrepreneurs (EB-5 Visa Holders)

You were granted this privilege based on your entrepreneurial exploits. You were proven to be valuable to the U.S. and must once again fulfill those requirements set out at the start. You essentially need to prove that you are still eligible for permanent residency through this category.

Prove specifically that:

  • Your investment in the business that granted you the initial conditional resident status is indeed true and not just for the sole purpose of evading the U.S. immigration laws
  • You invested the required capital
  • You are still actively involved with this commercial enterprise
  • The enterprise has generated (or is in the process of generating) 10 jobs for U.S. citizens.

File a Form I-829 to remove the conditional status from your Green Card. Follow the instructions and submit every document and required piece of evidence to prove your case for renewal.

Removing Marriage Related Conditional Status

You need to prove to the USCIS that your marriage to your spouse is true and that you don’t intend to use the marriage solely as a way to get permanent residency. Both spouses need to partake in filing a Form I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. Follow the instructions set out by the USCIS (or with the help of an attorney) and complete the process of proving your bona fide marriage.

Follow the procedure of your case with close attention. You’ll have to work fast and smart with the help of an attorney if your permanent residency is not approved. The USCIS will start removal procedures against you when your temporary Green Card expires. You need the help of an attorney to prove that you are in the process of appealing the decision if you have a good reason or if extraordinary circumstances caused the unfruitful outcome.

Temporary Green Card to Permanent Residence

You will receive a receipt notice when your filing is received and deemed complete by the USCIS. Guard this document in a safe place and also store some copies of it. It basically proves that your case is still in processing. The USCIS will ask for a biometrical appointment and an interview at some point. Once all of this is completed they will make a decision and inform you (hopefully) that your permanent residency (your Green Card) has been granted.


Temporary Green Cards help to keep people honest about their intentions of moving to the U.S. The USCIS uses the two-year period to test whether the original bases of your immigration still remain. They will remove the conditional status on your permanent residency after you’ve proven this to them and issue you with a permanent Green Card.

Apply for renewal before your temporary Green Card expires and use the expert advice of an immigration attorney when your renewal applications have failed and you’ve become subject to removal procedures.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 100,000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn more about finance, immigration, and more!
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

Get the Checklist