A Lawful Permanent Resident is someone who is legally in the United States and has received the right to live there indefinitely. Permanent residency includes the right to work in the United States (for most employers) or for yourself. Permanent residents almost always continue to hold citizenship in another country, usually the country where they were born.
Below are some differences between green card holders and citizens in the US. For more information, speak with an immigration lawyer near you.
Lawful Permanent Residents receive an “alien registration card,” known worldwide as a “green card,” even though it is no longer green. Permanent residents can use the green card to prove they are eligible to work in the US and to apply for a Social Security card.
Permanent residents can travel outside the US but must present their valid green card when coming back to the United States. In addition, a permanent resident should continue to use an unexpired passport from their citizenship country.
Each time a Lawful Permanent resident returns to the United States, they are subject to the same inadmissibility grounds as when they first got approved for residency. These include some health-related issues, certain kinds of criminal activity, terrorism, national security issues, becoming a public charge (going on welfare), willful misrepresentation, and making false claims to US citizenship.
Unlike US citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents cannot vote in federal, state, or local elections. Only US citizens can vote.
Also, unlike citizenship, you can easily lose Lawful Permanent Residency status. If you commit certain crimes or other violations, you can be placed in removal proceedings and become subject to deportation. Also, if you leave the US and stay away for more than six months at a time, the immigration authorities may determine that you have abandoned your intent to make the US your permanent home. Staying away for over a year creates an almost irrebuttable presumption that you have abandoned your residency. If you expect to be out of the US for an extended period, you should consider applying for a reentry permit prior to leaving. This permit is usually valid for two years and can assist in establishing your intent to return and reside in the US.
Note that, in contrast, it is very difficult to lose US citizenship. First, you can voluntarily renounce your citizenship. You do this by performing one of the seven “expatriating” acts defined by US law and by doing so with a conscious intent to give up your US citizenship. Generally, the acts involve citizenship in or allegiance to another government in some form or formally renouncing your citizenship.
Remember, however, it isn’t enough to simply perform the act. You must do so with the specific intent to relinquish your US citizenship. Thus, the Supreme Court said that merely being a dual citizen was insufficient to cause renunciation of US citizenship. Perhaps one of the most important differences between citizenship and residency is how much easier it is to lose the latter.
If you have questions about your rights as a citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident, contact an experienced immigration lawyer at the Law Office of Robert D. Ahlgren today.
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