US Permanent Residence (Green Card) grants the ability to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. A green card holder must follow the conditions of being a US permanent resident in order to preserve their status. If a green card holder violates their status the green card can be revoked. Here is how to maintain your green card and how it can be revoked.
What should I expect as a green card holder?
As a green card holder, you are expected to consider the United States your home and to respect and obey the laws of the United States. Having a green card also gives you new rights and responsibilities. Being a permanent resident is a privilege, not a right. The best example of this is a driver’s license. If you violate the conditions of your driver’s license it can be taken away revoking your ability to legally drive. Similarly, your green card can be taken away or revoked, if you violate the conditions of being a permanent resident. It is very difficult to maintain a green card while living for extended periods of time in more than one country at a time unless more than 50% of your time is spent in the US.
What are my rights as a green card holder?
Once you become a lawful permanent resident in the United States, you have the right to:
- Live permanently anywhere in the United States
- Work in the United States
- Own property in the United States
- Attend public school
- Apply for a driver’s license in your state or territory
- Join certain branches of the US armed forces
- Receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare benefits, if you are eligible
- Apply to become a US citizen once you are eligible
- Request visas for your spouse and unmarried children to live in the United States
- Leave and return to the United States under certain conditions
What are my responsibilities as a green card holder?
Once you become a lawful permanent resident in the United States, you must:
- Make the US your permanent residence
- Obey all federal, state, and local laws
- Pay federal, state, and local income taxes
- Register with the Selective Service (U.S. armed forces), if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26
- Maintain your immigration status
- Carry proof of your permanent resident status at all times
- Change your address online or provide it in writing to USCIS within 10 days of each time you move
How do I maintain my green card status?
Once you have obtained permanent resident status, you will continue to be a permanent resident unless your status changes as provided under US immigration law. One way you can lose permanent resident status is by abandoning it. You abandon your permanent resident status by leaving the US to live abroad permanently with the intent of giving up your permanent resident status. Your conduct will demonstrate your actual intent. There are some things you can do to decrease the possibility that the US government will find that you have abandoned your status:
- Do not leave the United States for an extended period of time unless the circumstances show that your trip is for a temporary purpose (for example, to attend school, take a temporary job, or care for a family member). If you are absent for a year or longer, you cannot use your Permanent Resident Card to enter the United States.
- If something happens that delays your return, be prepared to explain the reason(s) for the delay.
- File federal and, if applicable, state, and local income tax returns.
- Register with the Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26.
- Give your new address to USCIS within 10 days of each time you move.
Can I live outside the US and visit periodically to maintain my green card status?
We speak with many green card holders that believe they can live outside the United States and maintain their permanent resident status as long as they return to the United States at least once (1) a year. THIS IS FALSE. Traveling to the United States once (1) a year, or even occasionally, typically is not sufficient to maintain your status. Permanent residents may travel outside the United States for temporary or brief travel. If you leave the United States for too long or indicate in another way that you do not intend to make the United States your permanent home, a determination might be made that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. Any trips outside the United States for six (6) months or more can affect your ability to return to the United States as a permanent resident.
When should I get a re-entry permit?
If you think you will be out of the United States for 6 months or more, we recommend applying for a re-entry permit before leaving the United States by filing USCIS Form I-131. A re-entry permit is valid for up to two (2) years. A re-entry permit does not guarantee that you will be admitted to the United States when you return, but it can indicate that your trip abroad was temporary. Be Aware – regardless of whether you might have abandoned your permanent resident status—you are subject to a full immigration inspection as an applicant for admission any time you have been abroad for at least 181 days.
Do I file US tax returns as a permanent resident?
As a green card holder, you are required to file income tax returns and report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as well as to your state, city, or local tax department, if required. If you do not file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any length of time, or if you say that you are a non-immigrant on your tax returns, this may indicate that you have given up your permanent resident status.
Do I need to register with the Selective Service?
All men between the ages of 18 and 26 years old must register with the Selective Service. If you have not already been registered with the Selective Service, you should do so right away. When you register, you tell the government that you are available to serve in the US armed forces. Military service in the United States is voluntary.
How can my green card be revoked?
Although US Permanent Residence may imply that it is permanent and cannot be taken away, if you do not properly maintain your green card or if you violate the conditions of your green card, it can be revoked. The most common scenarios we see for revocation of a green card are:
- Unlawful behavior
- Extended time outside the United States
- Obtaining your green card by fraud or misrepresentation
- Tax evasion
Family-based ImmigrationEmployment-based Immigration What is a Re-entry Permit, and when do I need one?
Additional Outside Resources
- USCIS: Welcome Guide for New Immigrants
- USCIS: After We Grant Your Green Card
- USCIS: International Travel as a Permanent Resident
- USCIS: I-131, Application for Travel Document
- USCIS: Address Change
- Selective Service Registration
We Can Help!
The immigration lawyers at Richards and Jurusik Immigration Law have more than 20 years of experience helping people to live and work in the United States. Contact us today for an assessment of your legal situation.