LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENCY
"Use It or Lose It": Your Rights and Responsibilities
Revised: August 2006
After the work, effort and patience required to achieve Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) status in the U.S., you are well advised to review your rights and responsibilites of LPR status and what is required to maintain your status.
WHAT IS "LPR" STATUS?: A Lawful Permanent Resident is entitled to reside permanently and work in the U.S. (except for a few employers). Evidence of this is either a valid and unexpired Form I-551 Stamp in the Alien's foreign passport or the Form I-551 Alien Registration Card (commonly referred to as a "Green Card", though they are not really green). (The first cards were issued in the 1950s and were green in color, and the name stuck.) The new Green Card is a high-tech document with sophisticated anti-counterfeit technology. See USCIS News Release. The Green Card should really be thought of as a "privilege" not a "right", because it is the property of the U.S. government and can be withdrawn or taken away under certain circumstances. The Green Card and LPR status allows the right to travel outside of the U.S., meaning that no additional visa is necessary for re-entry into the U.S. after short visits abroad. The I-551 Stamp or Green Card is sufficient proof of identity to secure a Social Security Card and state Driver's License.
There is no general right to vote with LPR status, nor a right to run for elective political office. A person with LPR status who is convicted and sentenced to a serious criminal felony, or certain crimes of "moral turpitude", or certain serious misdemeanors involving domestic violence, controlled substances or firearms can be subject to deportation or removal. For more on this topic, see: Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions. Males between the ages of 18 and 25 years with LPR status are required to register with Selective Service (military draft registration). As for immigration sponsorship, a person with LPR status can petition for resident visas for certain family members (namely, unmarried children and spouses) but the applicable quota waiting periods are currently so long that most people are usually better off pursuing and achieving U.S. citizenship first before filing such petitions.
Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) enjoy the benefits and protections of the U.S. Bill of Rights (the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, such as free speech, due process and equal protection) along with U.S. Citizens because the provisions of those Amendments protect "persons", not only citizens.
Conditional Legal Residency: If you achieved lawful residency through marriage to a U.S. citizen, your status is considered "conditional" for up to 24 months provided that you stay married to your U.S. citizen spouse. The same rules apply to conditional residency as LPR status. Conditional residents apply to change status at the end of 24 months expiration date on their Green Card with the Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residency.
WHAT IS REQUIRED TO MAINTAIN PERMANENT RESIDENCY STATUS?
Further, inasmuch as post 09-11 security procedures have intensified around the nation's airports and seaports, we suggest that permanent residents be ready for greater questioning and scrunity after extended travels abroad, and that they carry their green card with them at all times, even when only traveling domestically and passing through local airports. Also, tough new rules now require Permanent Residents and visa holders to immediately notify Immigration Service of changes of home address. See Form AR-11.
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