Lawful Permanent Resident
A Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) is a foreign national in the United States of American who has been granted permission to live and work permanently within the USA.
A person who becomes an LPR based on marriage will receive a conditional LPR status if the marriage has subsisted for less than 2 years.
- The green card will be valid for 2 years rather than the normal 10 years;
- A petition to remove conditions must normally be made 90 days before the expiry of the 2 year period.
- In case of death of spouse or divorce, a self-petition may be made for removal of conditions. One basis to do this is to show that the marriage was entered into in good faith.
Those who receive LPR through investment (EB-5) may also receive a conditional LPR status.
Once you remove conditions on your LPR status, time as a conditional LPR does count for US citizenship.
An application to Adjust Status is made with USCIS to become an LPR. This is done by those already admitted to the United States.
Alternatively, it is possible to apply for an Immigrant Visa at a United States embassy or consulate in another country. Upon entering the United States and admission as an immigrant, one becomes a Lawful Permanent Resident.
Proof of LPR status is a Permanent Resident Card, also known as a "Green Card." The Green Card (GC) is currently white in color, although in the distant past used to be green.
The validity period is normally 10 years, except for some marriage based GC holders, who initially obtain a GC valid for 2 years.
LPR status can be (and often is) lost even though the Green Card remains purportedly valid. This usually occurs through abandoning residence in the United States or making prolonged trips overseas.
Replacement of a GC is expensive and may take months. Lacking evidence of LPR status may cause problems from time to time. It may be possible to get a temporary I-551 stamp in your passport if this occurs.
Rights of Green Card holders
Rights of a GC holder:
- work for any employer in the United States, except for positions requiring U.S. citizenship.
- Note that those who obtained their green cards through employment should not leave their employer shortly after becoming a permanent resident.
- take time out from work to study or rest (subject to finances).
- spouses and children obtain full work rights
- security for family members.
- no risk (at least, no immigration risk) of having to return home due to death of the main applicant, or family breakdown.
- children are no longer at risk of "aging out" of eligibility to obtain green cards based on parent.
- in most states, GC holders are entitled to "in-state" tuition fees.
- some tuition assistance schemes and scholarships may be restricted to U.S. citizens.
- no special visa needed to study
- own a firearm, subject to any state or local restrictions.
- Note that the Second Amendment to the Constitution does not protect the rights of Green Card holders.
- Most states and localities do not ban GC holders from holding firearms (in the sense that if American citizens are permitted, GC holders are also permitted). There are exceptions, such as Washington State.
- However, it may be more difficult - or impossible - to obtain certain firearm permits (for example, "conceal carry"), as a non American citizen. Guns in America
- apply for United States citizenship after 5 years residence in the United States (or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).
- Only time with your GC counts
- It is possible to file for citizenship 90 days early.
- make federal political campaign contributions (Foreign Nationals and Campaign Contributions).
- Entitlement to contribute to state and local political campaigns depends on local law.
- in most states, obtain a driving license on the same basis as U.S. citizens.
- in some states, GC status as a minimum is required to obtain a professional license.
- sponsor spouses and certain other relatives for permanent residence, although these categories are heavily backlogged.
- enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces, although usually not at officer rank.
- on return to the United States, Green Card holders can (at some ports of entry) use the same entry channel as U.S. citizens. There is no need to fill in an I94 or I94W.
- with a valid GC (plus national passport), you may visit Canada without needing a tourist visa, even if your nationality would normally require one.
- eligibility for special cross-border travel programs (NEXUS etc) usually requires US or Canadian citizenship or permanent residence. Also, you need a total of 3 years residence in Canada or the USA, normally.
The key advantage of a Green Card is security. Your right, and your family's right, to remain in the United States is no longer subject to the sponsorship of your employer (or spouse) and not subject to ever-changing visa quota issues (especially for employment based cases). And you can aspire to become American citizens in due course.
Responsibilities of GC holders
As a general principle, laws and obligations that apply to United States citizens also apply to Green Card holders.
Green Card holders must:
- pay United States federal income tax on worldwide income, as a resident.
- comply with all other federal, state and local tax requirements.
- inform any change of address to USCIS (within 10 days) using form AR-11.
- carry proof of status on their person.
- maintain a residence in the United States
- not depart the United States for periods of time exceeding 12 months (extensible to 2 years with a re-entry permit)
- register for Selective Service, if male and aged between 18-26.
Breach of the law, in addition to normal criminal penalties, may result in deportation for a Green Card holder.
In particular, Green Card holders must not register to vote (or worse still, vote) in any election that is reserved for U.S. citizens. This is virtually all elections, except in some local polls. As a general rule, Green Card holders must not claim to be U.S. citizens.
In common with any U.S. citizen, and all U.S. residents, GC holders should not visit Cuba without appropriate permission.
Disadvantages of GC status
There are a few "disadvantages" of Green Card status.
- It is straightforward for a U.S. citizen to sponsor a spouse for residence in the United States. Similarly, it is straightforward for a non-immigrant visa holder to sponsor a spouse for derivative status. However, due to visa quotas, there is a long waiting period (around 5 years, as of late 2008) for Green Card holders who wish to sponsor spouses to live in the United States.
- High net worth GC holders who have their Green Card status for over 8 years and then leave the United States may be subject to expatriation tax provisions. These provisions are intended for U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship but may also catch departing GC holders. The difference is that U.S. citizens must normally volunteer to renounce citizenship, while losing Green Card status is normally involuntary.
- As a Green Card holder (or U.S. citizen) you will usually be ineligible for diplomatic immunity in the United States. This may restrict you working for your native country's embassy in a "diplomatic" role. However, you will be able to take on "locally engaged position" employment.
Unrestricted Social Security card
- As a new permanent resident, you should obtain a Social Security card without any employment restriction endorsement.
- An unrestricted Social Security card + a state driving license is sufficient evidence to prove to an employer that you are entitled to work in the United States.