Congratulations on becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States. Below are some things that new and intending immigrants should know about holding LPR status.
First, there are some restrictions that apply to persons with permanent resident status. A permanent resident cannot vote, run for public office, serve on jury duty, or hold a Federal Civil Service job. Also, you are required to carry your “green card” with you at all times. Should it ever get lost, damaged, or destroyed, you must immediately apply for a replacement card by filing an I-90 with USCIS.
Please note that as a permanent resident, you are required by law to notify USCIS of any future changes of address within 10 days of your move. This can be done online at https://www.uscis.gov/ar-11. It is very important that you print a confirmation of your change of address for your records.
Maintaining U.S. Residency
As a permanent resident, you are free to depart and reenter the United States without obtaining a visa; to reenter the United States, you will need your Permanent Resident Card and your valid unexpired passport from your country of citizenship. Please note that your Permanent Resident Card only serves as a travel document for absences of less than one year. Under longstanding law, absences of one year or longer may result in the automatic loss of your permanent resident status, unless a travel document known as a reentry permit has been issued.
If you need to depart the U.S. for a period of one year or more (and not return within the year), a reentry permit can be obtained and must be applied for prior to your departure by filing a Form I-131 with USCIS. The reentry permit is issued for a period of two years. Thus, if you need to remain outside of the United States for one year or more for work, school or other emergent reasons, we recommend that you contact us well in advance of your departure so we may assist you in filing this important application.
However, please be aware that coming to the U.S. for a short period of time each year, even with reentry permits, is not sufficient to maintain your residence for naturalization purposes, nor is it sufficient to maintain your status as a permanent resident (“green card” holder). If you are absent from the United States continuously for 180 days or more, the immigration authorities may consider you an “applicant for admission” and challenge your maintenance of permanent residence. They may allege that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. Thus, we recommend that you do not spend 180 days or more outside of the United States at one time. Moreover, we recommend that you maintain your home and employment, as well as your permanent ties – family, property, business affiliations, finances, and payment of taxes – in the United States. This helps to demonstrate your continuous uninterrupted intention to maintain your permanent residence in the U.S., and would help you to effectively rebut any potential future government challenges to the maintenance of your permanent resident status.
You may have been given a conditional green card if you obtained LPR status through your spouse and you were married for less than two years prior to the issuance of LPR status. If you’re still married and together, you can apply for expedited naturalization (citizenship) after two years and nine months of having permanent resident status. However, before you can do this, you must file to remove conditions on your green card with an I-751, prior to its expiry. You can file the I-751 up to 90 days prior to when your conditional green card expires. Please contact our office at least four months prior to the expiry of your green card so we can get you started on this (if you wish to hire us for it). For this purpose, you need to continue to collect evidence of bona-fide marriage from the date of the marriage to the date we file the I-751. As such, we suggest that you make a folder (electronic or physical) to collect everything that bears both your names on it since you got married.
If you’re separated or divorced prior to the expiry of the conditional status, you can still apply for removal of conditions with an I-751 waiver. However, you would only be eligible to apply for citizenship at the four year and nine month mark instead. The laws might change so it may be good to check in with us or another attorney when you are ready to naturalize.
Most persons who did not get their LPR status through a U.S. citizen spouse i.e. through a U/T visa or SIJS, need to wait five years (four years, nine months) to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Please note that if you were given a ten year green card by mistake, USCIS will still require you to remove conditions on your card prior to gaining U.S. citizenship. When in doubt, check with your attorney.
Applying for U.S. Citizenship
Please note that there are also residence and physical presence requirements in order to become eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. An absence of 180 days or more may be viewed as a disruption in the continuity of your residence, and therefore, may affect your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. Spending a majority of your time outside of the United States may also keep you from meeting the physical presence requirements for purposes of naturalization. In sum, a continuous absence for 180 days or more can endanger your permanent resident status and your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. Thus, we recommend that you do not plan any trips outside of the United States for 180 days or more.
Although you do not have to become a U.S. citizen, there are many advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen, including the ability to confer permanent resident status on certain relatives, such as parents, spouses, children, and to vote in U.S. federal and state elections. Most importantly, US citizens are not subject to deportation, and can reside abroad without losing their status.
If you do anticipate applying for U.S. citizenship, please be advised that the citizenship application will require you to list every single trip you take outside the U.S. since becoming a lawful permanent resident. Thus, we recommend that you keep track of all of your trips abroad, including the date you depart the U.S., the date you return to the U.S., and the countries visited.
Acquiring U.S. residency may require you to submit all of your income, regardless of its sources, to U.S. income taxation. Failure to pay U.S. taxes on all sources of income could subject you to penalties under the Internal Revenue Code and possible rescission of your permanent resident status. Additionally, payment of taxes is a requirement for citizenship.
Also, please be advised that commission of some acts, especially crimes, can make you deportable from the United States. This includes the use, sale and possession of controlled substances even though the controlled substance i.e. marijuana, may be legal in your state. Although this does not apply to you, please note that you should immediately contact our office if you are ever arrested. Even a conviction for a seemingly minor crime can result in deportation, regardless of whether the case is later expunged.
Please note that while your actual resident card may be valid for two or ten years, your permanent resident status is for life (once conditions are removed, if applicable) so long as you continue to reside here following the rules laid out above. If you lose your card or it expires after conditions are removed, and do not have an interest in naturalization, you simply need to file a renewal of it using Form I-90.