As a lawful permanent resident in the United States, you acquire new rights and responsibilities. Read to learn how they can affect your ability to become a citizen.

Being a lawful permanent resident in the United States entails new rights and new responsibilities to be mindful of as your conduct as a permanent resident can affect your ability to become a U.S. Citizen during the process of naturalization. Lawful permanent residents are issued a valid Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) as proof of their legal status. As a permanent resident, this allows you to reenter the United States if you have traveled abroad at any point in time. This is also known as a “Green Card.”


Lawful Permanent Resident Rights:

  • As long as you do not commit any actions that would deem you removable under immigration law, your residency in the United States is permanent anywhere in the country
  • You may legally work in the United States 
  • Own property in the U.S.
  • Receive public education and be eligible for federal grants and scholarships
  • Join certain branches of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare benefits, contingent on eligibility 
  • Request visas for your spouse and unmarried children to live in the U.S.
  • As a permanent resident, you are protected by the laws of the United States, the laws of your state of residence and jurisdictions
  • As a lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible to become a U.S. citizen after five years or three years if you are married to a U.S. Citizen.

Lawful Permanent Resident Duties:

  • Required to obey all federal, state and local laws of the United States.
  • Pay all federal, state and local income tax.  You are required to file your income tax returns and report your income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities
  • Maintain your immigration status
  • Carry proof of your permanent resident status at all times
  • It is also required that if you are a male, aged 18 through 25, that you must register with the Selective Service. Males who have obtained their immigrant visa or adjusted their status may have been registered automatically.

Learn more about the rights and responsibilities of a permanent resident


Traveling Abroad:

Lawful permanent residents may travel abroad as long as it is temporary or transient. If you leave the United States for 6-12 months or otherwise demonstrate that you do not intend to make the U.S. your permanent home, the U.S. government may determine that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. 

Documents Required for Reentry:

  • Present a valid, unexpired “Green Card” (Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card)
  • Valid Passport
  • Foreign National I.D. Card 
  • U.S. Driver’s License

Appropriate documentation is vital to ensuring a  problem-free U.S. border crossing. Every traveler and visitor, being both foreign and returning U.S. citizens, are mandated to take initiative and ensure proper documentation is present, allowing for entry and reentry.

If you believe that there is a chance you will be out of the United States for more than 12 months, the USCIS recommends you apply for a re-entry permit before leaving the country by filing Form I-131, Application for a Travel Document. Use the link to determine where to file, the filing fee, the checklist of required initial evidence as well as the special instructions. A re-entry permit is valid for 2 years but does not guarantee that you will be admitted to the U.S. when you return from your travels abroad. Keep in mind that you are subject to a full immigration inspection as an applicant for admission any time you have been abroad for 181 days.

Read more about International Travel as a Permanent Resident.

Engaging in or being convicted of a crime in the United States as a lawful permanent resident could result in removal from the United States, refused re-entry into the U.S., or loss of U.S. Citizenship eligibility.

Criminal Conduct Includes:

  • Lying or presenting fake documents to defraud government agencies
  • Failure to file taxes as required
  • Failure to support family, pay child or spousal support as ordered
  • Failure to register for the Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26
  • Arrests for domestic violence
  • Illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people
  • Murder
  • Rape

We strongly recommend having a consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer before you make a decision to file for any immigration benefits, as an immigration attorney can explain to you in full detail the process and requirements mandated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, help you file the necessary forms directly with the USCIS, as well as any other important associated issues you should consider.

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