What to Know About Holding a Green Card

By Julia at Legal Language
Posted on 02/13/2012
In Immigration, Maintaining Status

sample green card

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 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 two 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 Expiration and Next Steps

Current green cards are valid for 10 years, or two 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.

3 Responses to “What to Know About Holding a Green Card”

  1. Anthony Hinrichs Says:

    What crimes or other actions would subject a Permanent Resident to deportation?

  2. Bijaya Says:

    I hold a green card and live in California. I have never left US since I entered on 5/07, green card issued on 5/23/10.

    Please let me know if I can travel back to my home country for a brief time to see my mom. I hope there will not be problem reentering US. Thank you,

  3. Kaytie at Legal Language Says:

    Hello Bijaya,
    Legal Language Services cannot offer legal advice online. Please contact your nearest USCIS office or an immigration lawyer to find out how you should handle this situation.

    Good Luck!
    Kaytie at Legal Language

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