Now That You Are a U.S. Permanent Resident

Congratulations on becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident. We have compiled the following information on your new rights and responsibilities as a U.S. Permanent Resident. Please read this carefully and contact us with any questions or concerns. If you are a Conditional Permanent Resident, remember that you must file a petition to remove the conditions on your residence in less than two years time and you are eligible to apply for U.S. Naturalization (Citizenship) just prior to your third anniversary as a U.S. Permanent Resident. Everyone else is eligible to apply for U.S. Naturalization (Citizenship) just prior to your fifth year anniversary as a U.S. Permanent Resident. The following information is from U.S. Citizenship & Immigrant Services and can also be found at


Now that you have become a Permanent Resident of the United States we would like to welcome and congratulate you on your accomplishment. You have certain rights and certain responsibilities as a Permanent Residents. This document will give you a general idea of what those rights and responsibilities are and some other useful information related to your immigration status. You may also wish to read Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants, a guide (in English and 10 other languages) containing practical information to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the United States, as well as basic civics information that introduces new immigrants to the U.S. system of government. This guide is available online at

As a Permanent Resident you have most of the rights of a United States Citizen but there are some exceptions.


  • To live permanently in the United States provided you do not commit any actions that would make you removable (deportable) under the immigration law (section 237, Immigration and Nationality Act).
  • To be employed in the United States at any legal work of your qualification and choosing.
  • To be protected by all of the laws of the United States, your state of residence and local jurisdictions.
  • To vote in local elections where United States Citizenship is not required.


  • Some jobs will be limited to United States Citizens because of security concerns.
  • You may not vote in elections limited to United States Citizens.


  • You are required to obey all of the laws of the United States, the States, and localities.
  • You are required to file your income tax returns and report you income to the US Internal Revenue Service and State IRS.
  • You are expected to support the democratic form of government and cannot attempt to change the government through illegal means.
  • If you are a male, age 18 through 25, you are required to register with the Selective Service.

International Travel

A Permanent Resident of the United States can travel freely outside of the US. A passport from the country of citizenship is normally all that is needed. To reenter the US a Permanent Resident normally needs to present the green card (Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551) for readmission. A reentry permit is needed for reentry for trips greater than one year but less than two years in duration. If you plan to be outside of the US for more than a six month period, contact our office so we can discuss your options and help you maintain your Permanent Resident status even while outside the USA for long periods of time.

Maintaining Permanent Residence

You may lose your permanent residence status if you commit an act that makes you removable from the United States under the law in section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you commit such an act, you may be brought before the immigration courts to determine your right to remain a Permanent Resident.

You may be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status if you:

  • Move to another country intending to live there permanently.
  • Remain outside of the US for more than one year without obtaining a reentry permit or reurning resident visa. However in determining whether your status has been abandoned any length of absence from the US may be considered, even if it is less than one year.
  • Remain outside of the US for more than two years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa. However in determining whether your status has been abandoned any length of absence from the US may be considered, even if it is less than one year.
  • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the US for any period.
  • Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your tax returns.


Many Permanent Residents of the United States have the ultimate goal of becoming a US citizen. Naturalization is the primary method for most persons not born as US citizens to obtain that status. Under current law naturalization is done by the federal and state courts and in an administrative proceedings. Once a permanent resident completes the necessary residence and physical presence requirements, which in your case is three (3) years from the date you were approved for Conditional Permanent Residence, an application for naturalization can be filed with Immigration. This starts a review of the person’s basic eligibility, criminal and security histories, and then leads to testing of the person’s English language abilities, knowledge of the history and form of government of the US, and good moral character. Complete information on naturalization can be found on our website by clicking on the link to the right titled Citizenship.

As a naturalized US citizen you have the same rights and privileges as a native born US citizen with one exception. Only a native born US citizen can be president of the United States. As a US citizen you can petition for your parents and siblings to immigrate to the US. Your spouse and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) qualify for immediate relative classification for immigration purposes, which means they do not have a waiting list to immigrate (like the spouse and children of a Permanent Resident) and can do so as fast as the paperwork can be processed.

Permanent Resident Card

The Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551, is issued to all Permanent Residents as evidence of alien registration and their permanent status in the US. The card must be in your possession at all times. This requirement means that you are not only required to have a currently valid Form I-551 at all times, but also that you must carry your currently valid Form I-551 on your person at all times. The Permanent Resident Card currently is issued with a 10-year validity. You status as a Permanent Resident does not expire with the 10-year validity. Only the card expires. The card is only valid up to the expiration date and must be renewed before it expires.

The Permanent Resident Card (either unconditioned or conditioned) can be used to prove employment eligibility in the US when completing the Form I-9 for a new employer. It can also be used to apply for a Social Security Card and a state issued driver’s license. The card is valid for readmission to the United States if the trip was not greater than one year in length. If a trip will last longer than one year, a reentry permit is needed.


A Permanent Resident can petition for some relatives to join him or her in the United States as immigrants. Those relatives are your spouse and children, regardless of age. Contact our office to discuss eligibility.


One of the most important privileges of democracy in the United States of America is the right to participate in choosing elected officials through voting. As a Permanent Resident you can only vote in local and state elections that do not require you to be a US citizen. It is very important that you do not vote in national, state or local elections that require a voter to be a US citizen when you are not a US citizen. There are criminal penalties for voting when you are not a US citizen and it is a requirement for voting. You can be removed (deported) from the US if you vote in elections limited to US citizens.

Change of Address

You are required to notify us of any change of address within 10 days of that change. Form AR-11 is used for that purpose. You can find this form online at:

Legal Services