As a permanent resident of the United States, otherwise known as a green card holder, you have a set of rights and responsibilities to observe. This list helps guide you on how to conduct yourself properly, and boost your ability to become a US citizen through naturalization later.
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What is a US green card?
A US Green Card, also called a Permanent Resident Card, is a kind of identification that certifies a someone has been permitted to reside and work in the US permanently. It was once called a “green card” because it was green, even though it is now white.
Green card holders are considered permanent citizens of the United States, entitling them to perpetual residency and employment rights. They are also free to travel inside and outside the US and can apply for various employment, including those demanding American citizenship.
A green card can be acquired through family sponsorship, employment, refugee or asylee status, the diversity lottery, and employment. The number of green cards granted each year is frequently capped, and the procedure can be complicated and drawn out.
Green card holder vs US citizen
A green card holder is a legal permanent resident of the United States. This indicates they have been granted permanent permission to live and work in the United States. A citizen of the United States is someone born in the country or who became a citizen via naturalization.
There are a few key differences between green card holders and US citizens.
- Voting rights: Green card holders cannot vote in US elections. US citizens can vote in federal, state, and local elections.
- Travel: Green card holders can travel outside of the United States, but they must have a valid passport and visa. US citizens can travel outside of the United States with their US passports.
- Employment: Green card holders can work in the United States without any restrictions. US citizens have the same right to work in the United States.
- Military service: Green card holders cannot serve in the US military. US citizens have the right to serve in the US military.
- Taxation: Green card holders are taxed on their worldwide income. US citizens are only taxed on their US-sourced income.
There are also some benefits that green card holders have that US citizens do not have. These include:
- Ability to sponsor family members for green cards: Green card holders can sponsor their spouse, children, and parents for green cards. US citizens can only sponsor their spouses and children for green cards.
- Ability to apply for citizenship after 5 years: Green card holders can apply for US citizenship after 5 years of continuous residence in the United States. US citizens do not have to apply for citizenship.
How to obtain a US green card?
Family Sponsorship: US citizens or Green Card holders can sponsor their immediate relatives, including spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents.
Individuals with specific job skills, such as those in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, may be eligible for a Green Card through employment-based sponsorship. The employer typically has to initiate the application process.
Refugee or asylum status
Individuals who have been granted refugee or asylum status in the United States may be eligible for a Green Card after one year of continuous residency there.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, randomly selects individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
Individuals who invest significant money in a US business may be eligible for a Green Card through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
Rights of a US Green Card Holder
As a US permanent resident, you have the right to the following:
Live permanently anywhere in the United States
True to the literal sense of being a permanent resident, you can now move freely throughout the United States. You can choose where to live, as influenced by your workplace, location of relatives, and other valid reasons.
Work in the United States
Unlike those holding certain visas entering the US such as B1/B2 tourist visas, a permanent resident can work without requiring a certain visa. This is certainly more desirable even to those who hold an H1B working visas which is temporary in nature.
Own a property in the United States.
As a permanent resident, you can also buy properties in the United States. As a permanent settler, it makes sense to own a property as you intend to work, build or bring your family together and stay there longer.
Attend public school in the United States.
As a permanent resident, you’ll be able to send your children to schools in the US without requiring a student visa. Taxpayers’ money funds public schools and are therefore free of charge, except for other extra fees. Other alternatives include private schools and homeschooling.
Apply for a US driver’s license.
Green card holders are also eligible to apply for a driver’s license and be able to drive a vehicle in the United States legally.
Enlist in the US armed forces
Like American citizens, permanent residents in the country can join certain branches in the US armed forces.
Receive social benefits
Eligible green card holders — those that fall under certain income brackets or have certain disabilities — can receive social security, medical and supplemental security income.
Apply to become a US citizen
Becoming a US citizen is an eventual pathway for a US permanent resident once he or she reaches a certain number of years as a green card holder, is at the right age and of good moral character, among others.
Support visa applications for your family members
Green card holders can also request visas for of their spouses and unmarried children to live in the United States.
Travel outside the United States
The ability to travel out of and return to the United States under certain conditions is also one of the rights of a US permanent resident.
Responsibilities of a US Green Card holder
On the flip side, there are also responsibilities every US permanent resident needs to be aware of. As a permanent resident, you must:
Obey all federal, state, and local laws
The United States has laws set by the federal (national), state, and local governments. As a permanent resident, you must be aware of and follow them.
Permanent residents in the United States must pay federal, state, and local income taxes.
Register with the Selective Service of the US armed forces
If you are a male between 18 and 26, you must register at this independent government agency that oversees information on those potentially subject to military conscription.
Carry proof of identity at all times.
To avoid inconvenience, you are required to carry proof of your permanent resident status at all times.
Notify the USCIS of the address change.
Within 10 days of moving to a new address, you must inform the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Revocation of green card status
Green Card holders must meet certain responsibilities to maintain their status and avoid consequences that may lead to the revocation of their Green Card. Some of the duties include:
Green Card holders are required to maintain their primary residence in the United States. If they leave the US for extended periods, they may be considered to have abandoned their residency, and their Green Card may be revoked.
Holders of green cards must submit US tax returns each year and disclose their worldwide income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They risk losing their green card status and fines for failing to file tax returns or pay taxes.
If a green card holder commits a specific offense, such as a serious felony or numerous misdemeanors, they may be deported.
Deportation may be an option for green card holders who break immigration regulations, such as by working without permission or entering the country illegitimately.
Failure to Renew
Green card holders must renew their documents every ten years, and failure to do so can result in the loss of permanent residency.
Being a US permanent resident or green card holder is a great privilege many wish to attain. As you’ll read the above list, holding this residence status has several benefits, while the responsibilities are mostly expected from a citizen of any other country. It is. Therefore, a crucial time to be a holder of this PR status as it brings you closer to that desired US citizen status.