Information for all Lawful Permanent Residents

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Lawful Permanent Resident

Obtaining Lawful Permanent  Resident (“LPR”) status in the United States is a big deal, regardless of the path you took.  Living in the U.S. is a dream for millions of people around the world.  If you were sponsored by an employer, you probably waited years for an immigration visa to become available.  Likewise if a relative filed papers for you.  Sometimes the process seemed to drag on forever and the layers of red tape were crushing you, but in the end you received the prized LPR card.  If you came as a refugee, you probably endured misery and suffering most of us can barely imagine. 

No matter how long it took or how difficult it was for you to become a LPR, in my view, this is only the beginning of your American journey not the final destination.  Your ultimate goal should be U.S. citizenship.   That is why you need to start planning for the day you can apply for naturalization as soon as you receive your LPR card from USCIS.  With this in mind, there are rights and responsibilities that every lawful permanent resident should be aware of.

What are your rights?

  • To live permanently in the United States provided you do not commit any crimes which would make you removable.  This is not as simple as it seems because many offenses are considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies, the two types of crimes which trigger § 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Cultural conditioning is no excuse.  For instance, I understand that in some cultures it is acceptable for a person to hit his or her spouse; however, in the U.S. this is considered domestic violence, which is a crime that may make you removable.
  • To be employed in the United States in any lawful profession you choose.  Or, to not work if you don’t want to.
  • To start your own business.  For you entrepreneurs out there—the sky’s the limit!
  • To be protected by the laws of the United States, your state of residence, and local jurisdictions.  Regardless of your citizen status, you are entitled to call the police, fire department, or any other government agency for assistance if you need it.  This is important to understand because many new immigrants come from countries where the police don’t always protect the public interest.
  • To enforce your legal rights in a court of law.  This means you can file a lawsuit against another person or entity if your legal rights were violated. 
  • To travel outside the U.S. and return without the need to apply for a visa.
  • To travel freely within the U.S.
  • To apply for an unrestricted Social Security card and a state driver’s license.
  • To petition certain relatives for permanent residence.

Of course with all rights and benefits come important responsibilities.  Here are some things you must do to preserve your right to live in the United States:

  • If you are a “conditional resident,” meaning you received your LPR status through marriage to a U.S. citizen or as an EB-5 investor, you must petition to remove the conditions BEFORE the expiration date of your conditional LPR card.  Do not miss this date.  If you do, you may lose your LPR status.
  • If you are a male between the age of 18 and 25 years old, you must register for Selective Service.  Registering is easy.  It can be done at the post office or online.  Failing to register for Selective Service will jeopardize your chances of become a U.S. citizen because it is a grounds for denial of a naturalization application.
  • You must periodically apply to renew your LPR card (usually every ten years).  The expiration date is indicated on your LPR card. 
  • You must keep USCIS apprised of your address any time you relocate.  File form AR-11 within ten days of a change of address.  Failing to do so is a violation of the terms of your status.
  • You must obey all of the laws of the United States, the States, and local governments.  
  • You are required to file annual income tax returns with the federal government as well as your state government. 
  • This should go without saying, but you should not try to change the country’s democratic form of government through violent means.  Attempting to overthrow the government will land you in removal proceedings quickly.
  • Do not vote in most federal or state elections or other elections which are limited to U.S. citizens.  This is crime and will subject you to removal.

International Travel Restrictions

As a LPR, there important things to remember about traveling outside the U.S.  Do not stay outside the country for more than six months. If you must stay out of the U.S. for more than six months, you run the risk of not being readmitted.  You may have to apply to a special reentry permit.

If you leave the U.S. for more than a year, USCIS may determine that you abandoned your LPR status and will revoke your LPR card.  These are just general guidelines.  If you have any specific questions, you should consult with a qualified immigration attorney (me).

You should keep track of any and all foreign trips you make while you are a LPR, because you will need to disclose such trips when you apply for naturalization.

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