What to Know About Holding a Green Card
By Julia at Legal Language
Posted on 02/13/2012
Many people refer to the process of becoming a US permanent resident as “getting a green card.”
A green card, however, is actually an immigration document that authorizes the holder to live and work in the US on a permanent basis. You can become a permanent resident several different ways. Most green card holders are sponsored by a family member or employer. Others are eligible through the diversity lottery. Many individuals also become permanent residents through refugee or asylee status.
Rights of the Green Card Holder
As a green card holder, you have the right to live permanently in the US, provided that you do not commit crimes or other actions that would subject you to deportation. You may obtain legal work of your choosing and are entitled to all of the protections of the laws of the US, your state and your local jurisdiction. Green card holders, however, are not allowed to vote in state or federal elections.
Responsibilities of the Green Card Holder
Green card holders are required to obey all federal, state and local laws in the US and to have a valid green card in their possession at all times. They are required to file annual income tax returns to the IRS and state taxing authorities. Male green card holders ages 18 through 25 are also required to register with the Selective Service.
International Travel as a Green Card Holder
Permanent residents are free to travel outside the US. Brief travel abroad does not affect your permanent resident status.
In order to travel as a green card holder, you will need to present a passport from your country of citizenship. If you are returning from a short trip abroad, you are required to present a valid unexpired green card to return. If you plan on being outside of the US for longer than a year, you should first apply for a reentry permit that allows you to be readmitted upon your return. If you have been abroad for more than 2 years, your reentry permit will have expired, and you must apply for a returning resident visa at the nearest US embassy or consulate.
Green Card Expirations and Next Steps
Current green cards are valid for 10 years, or 2 years if you are a conditional resident. After the period expires, you are required to obtain a renewal card, or if you are eligible, to apply for naturalization.
Is Your Green Card Lost or Stolen?
Please read our previous post on what to do if your green card is lost or stolen. The steps to follow may vary based on whether your green card was lost or stolen inside the US or abroad.