Now that you have your green card, what are the top things that you must know about your responsibilities and your rights as a lawful permanent resident? As you get closer to receiving your green card, you must be filled with wonder and excitement about the new life that lays ahead of you. But you must know some very important rules that comes to things such as travel, your ability to vote, with the requirements that you have to file certain applications even after you become a resident.
Sometimes not following these rules can even cause you to lose your green card, or it can even cause a delay in the process to becoming a citizen. So watch closely while I go through the top things that you must know as a green card holder.
I'm Moumita Rahman. I have been practicing immigration law for the past 13 years. If you would like my help on your case, call us at 212-248-7907 to schedule a case evaluation to see if we can help. Even though I am based in New York City, I work with immigration clients all over the United States.
Let's first start with the things that you are now able to do as a green card holder. When you are a green card holder, it means that you are a permanent resident of the United States. And now as a permanent resident here are some of the top things that you are now able to do.
Number one, you will become eligible to file for citizenship! Yes, that's right. You must first become a green card holder in order to then become eligible to naturalized as a citizen of the United States. However, there are a couple of time restrictions you must keep in mind.
Number one, if you got your green card through your marriage to a U.S. citizen and living with them in marital harmony for the past three years, you can file to become a citizen within three years after getting a green card. Or if you got your green card through any other way, such as employment, or asylum, or other family based categories, or anything else, you must wait five years to apply for citizenship.
Next, as a green card holder, you can also petition for certain family members, such as your spouse and your minor child who is under 21 years of age. Keep in mind that your relatives are not considered immediate relatives, and thus their applications will be governed by the Visa Bulletin and the time restrictions that the Visa Bulletin publishes every single month.
Next, if you got your green card through employment and your employer sponsored you, once you get your green card, technically you don't really have to stay employed with your employer, but definitely consult with your attorneys because if you quit your job too soon after getting your green card, this may pose a problem to naturalization. However, I don't want you to think that you have to always stay with your company for the full five years after getting a green card, you may be able to leave the company before that time expires.
Next, you can apply for financial aid for your education. As a green card holder you will become eligible for certain government programs and loans for financial aid. So this should make it easier for you to continue your higher education.
And lastly, as a green card holder, you can travel without restriction in and out of the United States. You no longer have to worry about advance parole or not being allowed to reenter. As a green card holder, you simply need your passport and your green card and you should be good to go and you should not necessarily have to go through a secondary inspection when you return to the United States.
What are some of the things that you're not allowed to do as a green card holder? Well, keep in mind that just because you have a green card, it does not mean that you are a U.S. citizen yet. And this is a very important distinction.
You must remember that you are not allowed to vote in any local, state or federal elections. You are not allowed to serve on jury duty and you are not allowed to say that you are a U.S. citizen, because you are, at this moment still a national of a different country and only have permanent residency inside the U.S.. Also, you can't run for political office until you become a U.S. citizen.
Now, let's talk about what you really, really need to know as a green card holder. What are the things that you are required to do so that your green card status is not put into any jeopardy and you don't have any challenges and lose your green card?
Number one, you must file all of your taxes. Now that you are a resident of the United States, you must take care to file your taxes every single year where you have earned the required amounts of money. And moreover, you must make sure that you file your taxes as a resident of the United States, not as a nonresident.
Next, you must keep your address updated with USCIS. I know that this is very surprising because once you get your green card, that should be it, right? But technically you are required to update your address with USCIS. You can usually do this very easily through the online form AR-11. But for special cases, such as persons who received their green card through VAWA, you would actually have to send the form in writing instead to the required Vermont Service Center for reasons of confidentiality.
Next, you must make sure you pay attention to the expiration date of your green card, because at all times as a permanent resident, you must maintain a valid card at all times. There are two types of expiration dates that you might have.
The first is if you have a conditional residency card, then this card is only valid for two years, and you must make sure to file your I-751 Application to Remove Conditions on your residency within the 90 days before your card expires. Typically, you would usually do this application with your spouse, but there might be times when you must file by yourself and request a waiver due to marriage termination, divorce, death of your spouse, or because you suffered extreme cruelty or battery at the hands of your spouse. Check my videos out to see more information about how you might qualify for these important cases because you don't want your card to expire without having filed these applications.
Now, the majority of you will actually have ten year green cards. And when you have a ten year green card, you must file the form I 90 to renew your card before it expires. Again, keep in mind that you are legally required to always make sure that your card is active.
Next, if you received your green card between the ages of 18 to 26 and you are a male, you are required to register for Selective Service. So pay attention. Normally most people are automatically enrolled into a Selective Service registration. However you want to double check this, especially if you are a young male between these ages. If you fail to apply, then this can definitely pose a hindrance to your ability to naturalize.
Next, you must make sure that you meet physical presence requirements, and violating this one can actually cause you to potentially lose your green card. As a green card holder, you are considered a resident of the United States, so you must make sure that when you travel out of the United States, you don't leave for more than six months at a time.
Any trips under 180 days is generally fine. But when you start having a trip out of the United States for 181 days or more, it creates a rebuttable presumption that you have abandoned your residency, and when you return from overseas, Customs and Border Patrol may even start questioning you aggressively about why you left, and why you didn't come back, and whether you are still, in fact, a resident of the United States. Now, if you leave the United States for more than one year, then that will definitely be a problem. And you may need a reentry permit to return or you may even need to apply for your returning resident visa.
Next, you are actually required to carry a valid green card with you at all times. This is considered your ID and failure to carry this might pose other penalties for you.
Lastly, I cannot emphasize this more, please don't commit certain crimes. Please don't commit any crimes if you can, of course. But as a resident of the United States, there are certain criminal convictions, if you have, even if you are a green card holder, these criminal convictions can make you deportable. And certain crimes, which are considered aggravated felonies, if you happen to get a conviction for this, it means that you may not even have a defense to staying inside the United States and you would lose your green card and be deported.
So you must take care to follow the laws at all times. Be very, very careful. And I definitely recommend to file for citizenship as soon as you are statutorily eligible for it, because once you're a citizen, a lot of these things don't matter anymore.
So these are some of the things that you must know about when you are a resident of the states to protect your status as a green card holder. But I want to know what is it that you want to do once you get your green card? I know so many of you out there have hopes of traveling, opening a business, of attending school. Leave me a comment and the box below and share with me what you are hoping to accomplish once you get your green card.
If you have filed your case and it's not yet approved, but you have received a notification saying that your case is being actively reviewed, watch my video here to find out exactly what that might mean for your case, and for how long it might mean that you still have to wait for your green card. I'll include a link below. I'll see you there.
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