Rights and Obligations of Lawful Permanent Residents

gridThis memo summarizes the rights and obligations you have upon becoming a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR), also known as a “green card” holder. You might want to keep a copy of this memo so that you can refer to it in the future. Questions or comments are welcome in the below comments section.

Receiving Your Green Card

When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants you LPR status, DHS will manufacture for you a Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card (i.e., “green card”).

The information for making the card is collected through ADIT processing. ADIT stands for “Alien Documentation, Identification, and Telecommunications System.” ADIT processing involves DHS filling out for you a Form I-89, Card Data Collection Form, to which you must add your fingerprint, signature, and two photos.

If you’ve obtained LPR status by applying for an immigrant visa abroad, then ADIT processing will take place at the port of entry where you enter the U.S. for the first time as an LPR.

Or if you’ve been granted LPR status by filing a Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, within the U.S., then ADIT processing is typically done at the DHS interview.

In either case, DHS then forwards these to a centralized location where the card is actually manufactured. It typically takes about a month to receive the card.

The green card will be sent by U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail to the address you provide at the time of ADIT processing.[1] The Post Office will not forward it the card if you move. So, if you move before receiving your card, contact our firm so that your address can be updated with DHS.

LPR Passport Stamp

If there’s a particular reason that you can’t wait for your Permanent Resident Card to have evidence of your LPR status, such as for travel or starting a new job, then you can ask USCIS for a stamp in your passport evidencing your LPR status.
Note that persons entering the U.S. with immigrant visas won’t need this stamp since the visa itself states, “Upon endorsement serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for 1 year.”

Expiration of Your Permanent Resident Card

Conditional Residents: You may be a conditional resident with a green card valid for just two years if you were granted resident status in one of two situations:

  • on the basis of a Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. In the situation, our firm will provide you separate information about how to file a Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, with USCIS in the 90-day period immediately preceding the two-year anniversary of receiving conditional resident status in order to receive a green card without a time limitation.
  • on the basis of a petition filed by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse and the marriage took place less than two years before you became a resident. Your status and your LPR card will expire 2 years after you were granted LPR status. You and your spouse are required to file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, with DHS within the 90-day period before your card expires. (If you have children who acquired conditional LPR status concurrently with you, they may be included in the same Form I-751.) Failure to timely file the Form I-751 could result in your deportation. The purpose of the Form I-751 is to verify once more with DHS that you and your spouse were married originally for valid reasons, not to obtain an LPR card through fraud. You will be required to document your ongoing marital relationship or, if no longer married, that your marriage was valid at its inception. To comply with this requirement, you should save all records such as birth certificates of children born of the marriage; evidence that you own or rent a home together; joint bank accounts; joint insurance policies; photographs showing you and your spouse together; joint utility bills; joint credit card accounts; etc. The Form I-751 will require your spouse’s signature, unless DHS grants a waiver of that requirement. DHS may require a personal interview. Please contact our firm in the future if you would like us to represent you in the Form I-751 process.

Others: Unless you are a conditional resident as described above, your LPR status lasts indefinitely. Nonetheless, the card itself will expire and need to be renewed if you do not become a U.S. citizen beforehand. If you are over age 14, the card will be valid for 10 years. If you are under age 14, within 30 days of reaching age 14 you must apply for a new Permanent Resident Card (unless you are temporarily outside the U.S. at the time, in which case you must apply for a new card within 30 days of return). To apply for a new card, you will need to file a Form I-90, Application for Alien Registration Receipt Card, with DHS. Feel free to contact our firm if you would like us to assist you in the I-90 process.

Applying for a New Social Security Card

If you do not have a Social Security Card, or if your card bears a legend stating “Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization,” “Not Valid without INS Employment Authorization,” or “Not Valid for Employment,” you can apply for a card with no such legend, thereby reflecting your LPR status.

To obtain a Social Security Card, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, in person with the Social Security Administration. The Form SS-5 includes a list of the documents that you must furnish to the Administration as part of your application. You can prove your identity and LPR status by presenting an unexpired passport and Permanent Resident Card or LPR passport stamp. The Form SS-5 is available from our firm from the Social Security Administration website (www.ssa.gov) or by calling (800)772-1213.

Please note that if you requested a Social Security number as part of your visa application (Form DS-230 Part II), you do not need to fill out an application or go to a Social Security office. You should receive your card within 3 weeks after you arrive in the U.S. It will be sent to the same address as your green card.

In some cases, persons who have recently been granted LPR status have experienced delays in receiving Social Security Cards due to the Social Security Administration’s difficulties in obtaining confirmation of LPR status from DHS databases that have not yet been updated. If you do experience delay, check the status of your case with the Social Security office.

If you worked in the U.S. before becoming a LPR, you should check with the Social Security Administration to be sure that you received credits under Social Security for any taxable work you did before becoming a LPR. You can do so by filing a Form SSA-7004, Request for Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement, available from our firm or from the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Act makes it a felony to knowingly use a false social security number (SSN). Fraudulent use of a SSN or misuse can also raise identity theft issues. If you have done so, seek legal advice before contacting the Social Security Administration. Obtaining such legal advice may be in your interests because it may be possible to obtain Social Security credits even for work you did using a false SSN.

Selective Service

If you are a male aged 18 to 25, you are required to register with Selective Service, the system for providing manpower to the U.S. Armed Forces if there is a draft in the future. Failure to register is a crime, may disqualify you from naturalization on good moral character grounds, and may make you ineligible for student financial aid and federal employment. Registering does not mean that you will have to enter the Armed Forces but merely enables the Armed Forces to locate you in the event of a national emergency.

You may have registered automatically when you filed your Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, or Form DS-230, Application for Immigrant Visa.

A registration acknowledgment card will arrive in the mail about 30 to 90 days after you register. Keep this document in a safe place as proof of registration. If you do not receive an acknowledgment card within 90 days of registering, or if you require a replacement acknowledgment card, call Selective Service at 1-847-688-6888.

In addition to registering initially, a male aged 18 to 25 is required to notify Selective Service within ten days of any changes to the address shown on his registration card.

Carry Your Green Card

If age 18 or over, a noncitizen must “at all times” possess evidence of alien registration. In your case, the proper evidence is your Permanent Resident Card (or, while you are waiting for the card, the LPR stamp in your passport). While the requirement that you “possess” at all times your Permanent Resident Card does not require that you have it on your person at all times, it does require that you have a currently valid card and that you know where it is and can show it to an immigration officer, if requested.

Notify USCIS of Address Change

If a noncitizen in the U.S. moves, they are required to report their new residence address to DHS within 10 days using DHS Form AR-11.

You do not need to complete AR-11 when you go on vacation or temporarily re-locate. Generally, if you live in one place as a residence for more than 30 days, you should complete form AR-11.

We ask our clients to submit the Form AR-11 themselves. A form that can be submitted online is available at www.uscis.gov .

Failure to comply is a ground for deportation and a misdemeanor punishable by a $200 fine and/or imprisoned for up to 30 days.

Note that if you have a pending application or application at USCIS, you need to file a separate notice of address change with the appropriate USCIS office.

Of course, please notify our law firm of any address change too.

Sponsor’s Address Change Requirement

A sponsor or joint sponsor who has completed a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is required to report a change of address within 30 days of the change if the sponsorship agreement is still in force.

The agreement is still in force until the sponsored immigrant:

  1. Becomes a U.S. citizen;
  2. Can be credited with 40 quarters of work;
  3. Departs the U.S. permanently and either files a Form I-407 to relinquish LPR status or is held by an Immigration Judge to have abandoned or otherwise lost LPR status; or
  4. Dies.

Use Form I-865, Sponsor’s Change of Address, available at www.uscis.gov .

How to Avoid Loss of LPR Status

You could lose your LPR status (be deported from the U.S. or be refused admission to the U.S.) under the following circumstances:

Crimes: Conviction for certain crimes (certain drug crimes, firearm offenses, theft offenses, or smuggling aliens into the U.S., aggravated driving under the influence, among others) could lead to deportation. If you are ever arrested or charged with any crime, contact our firm immediately (before your first court appearance) for advice about how to minimize the detriment to your immigration status.

Remaining outside the U.S. for too long: DHS may consider you to have abandoned your LPR status if you stay outside the U.S. for more than 6 months in a year. DHS may also consider you to have abandoned your LPR status if you depart the U.S. with the intention of remaining abroad. To ascertain such intent, DHS considers factors including:

  • Your purpose for departing the U.S. the location of your family ties, property holdings, and job
  • Whether you intended to return to the U.S. as the place of employment or business or as an actual home
  • Whether when you departed the U.S. the visit abroad could have been expected to terminate within a relatively short time, and whether that termination could have been fixed by an early event
  • Whether you continue to pay U.S. taxes

Merely returning to the U.S. once a year for a few days does not automatically revalidate your LPR status if you actually reside abroad because DHS can still determine that your LPR status has been abandoned.

A Permanent Resident Card is only valid for reentering the U.S. if you have been abroad for less than one year. If there is a possibility you will be abroad for a period of one to two years, before leaving the U.S. you should apply for a Reentry Permit, which is valid as a reentry document after an absence of up to two years. An unexpired reentry permit is also strong (but not conclusive) evidence that you have not abandoned your LPR status.

Taxes: If you fail to file federal or state income taxes or you file taxes as a nonresident of the U.S., DHS will presume you have abandoned your LPR status. You should file a tax return no later than April 15th of the year after you become a LPR (unless you apply to the Internal Revenue Service for and are granted an extension). LPRs must pay U.S. income taxes on all worldwide income. We would be pleased to refer you to a knowledgeable tax adviser upon your request.

Rescission: You may lose your LPR status if it was originally obtained through fraud or misrepresentation or you were ineligible for LPR status at the time of receiving it.

Paying Your Taxes

The first is taxes. As an LPR, you are required to pay income taxes on your world-wide income. If that income exceeds the income threshold for your filing status (single, married filing jointly, and so forth) set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you must file a Form 1040 (or simpler Form 1040A or 1040EZ) tax return annually. You must report all interest, dividends, wages, or other compensation for services, income from rental property or royalties, and other types of income on your U.S. tax return. You must report these amounts regardless of what currency they are paid in and regardless of whether their source is in or outside the U.S.

You are also liable for state income taxes if you live, or work, in a state which has a state income tax. U.S. tax residents are also subject to estate taxes.

As mentioned above, failure to pay your taxes or seeking classification as a “nonresident” for tax purposes can result in a finding that you have abandoned your LPR status.

You continue to have “resident” status for tax purposes so long as you have LPR status, even if you live outside the U.S. Rules to avoid or minimize double taxation by the United States and the country of physical residence/employment are set forth in IRS Publication 54, U.S. Tax Guide for Citizens and Residents Abroad. “Resident” tax status ends only when your LPR status is taken away from you or is administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.

Some long-term LPRs who lose status by abandonment may be subject to special reporting and tax rules depending on the date they lose LPR status. Under expatriation provisions of U.S. tax law, foreign nationals who have held LPR status for any part of eight out of 15 contiguous calendar years ending with the year of loss of status (called long-term residents) may be subject to an exit tax as well as other special procedures. Special rules and procedures that vary according to the date on which status is lost are described in IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

We recommend you seek advice from a competent attorney or accountant who specializes in international taxation to minimize your tax obligations and ensure that you comply with the laws of the U.S. government in this area.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen through Naturalization

In the future, you may wish to consider naturalization to become a U.S. citizen. Generally speaking, the requirements include:

1. Period of continuous residence: Most persons must continuously reside in the U.S. for 5 years as an LPR immediately preceding their application for naturalization. The application may be filed with DHS as early as 3 months before you actually become eligible for naturalization.

There is a special rule for LPRs married to U.S. citizens. If you are married to a U.S. citizen and live with that citizen continuously for 3 years as an LPR, you are eligible to apply for naturalization. You may apply for naturalization 3 months before becoming eligible.

In addition, if you have a U.S. citizen spouse who is assigned to work abroad by a U.S. corporation developing international trade or by certain governmental, international, or nonprofit organizations, then you may be eligible to naturalize immediately through an expedited procedure.

Travel abroad can disrupt continuous residence. Specifically, travel abroad lasting in excess of 1 year disrupts the continuity of residence. Travel abroad lasting between 6 months and 1 year also disrupts the continuity of residence unless you can prove otherwise to DHS, based on evidence such as:

  • You did not terminate your employment in the U.S.
  • Your immediate family remained in the U.S.
  • You retained full access to your home in the U.S.
  • You did not obtain employment while abroad
  • In the event the continuity of your residence is disrupted, you would need to continuously reside in the U.S. for 4 years and 1 day following your return before filing an application for naturalization (2 years and 1 day if you are married to a U.S. citizen as described in the prior paragraph). However, if you leave the U.S. to work for the U.S. government, an international agency, certain religious organizations, or a U.S.-owned firm, your extended travel abroad may not break your continuous residence if you file and obtain approval of a Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

2. Physical presence: During the 3 or 5-year period of continuous residence specified above, you must also prove that you have been physically present in the U.S. at least 50% of the time.

3. Good moral character: Good moral character can be lost through certain criminal convictions, failure to pay properly income taxes or child support, fraud or misrepresentations in dealing with DHS, and other acts evidencing a lack of good moral character.

4. A basic understanding of the English language and knowledge of U.S. history and government: certain elderly LPRs and persons with certain disabilities may qualify for exemption or easing of these requirements.

People apply for naturalization for various reasons. The potential advantages of U.S. citizenship include, for example: (1) U.S. citizens can help certain family members to immigrate to the U.S., as explained below. (2) U.S. citizens are permitted to vote in elections for public office, and certain public offices may be held only by U.S. citizens. (3) Certain government jobs, including some jobs requiring security clearances, are open only to U.S. citizens. (4) Certain countries have fewer travel restrictions for U.S. citizens than for citizens of third countries. (5) U.S. citizens are not subject to the laws referred to above regarding loss of LPR status. (6) A person who is not a U.S. citizen is prohibited from receiving Social Security payments if he or she has been outside the U.S. for more than 6 months unless the person’s country has a social security or pension system that reciprocates for U.S. citizens (totalization agreement). Countries that currently have totalization agreements are listed above. In addition, aliens who are deported from the U.S. may lose their Social Security benefits. (7) Certain estate tax laws may benefit U.S. citizens over noncitizens.

Some foreign countries permit dual citizenship. In contrast, certain other countries may revoke citizenship or nationality when a person naturalizes in the U.S., which may affect one’s ability to own certain forms of property, to receive social insurance benefits, to reside there, and/or to be employed there. Here are the stances of some countries regarding dual citizenship:

  • Canada–dual citizenship is permitted.
  • China–citizenship is lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Colombia dual citizenship is permitted.
  • El Salvador–citizenship through naturalization lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship, but citizenship through birth continues unless renounced through specific procedures.
  • Guatemala–citizenship is lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship.
  • India: Citizenship is involuntarily lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Israel–dual citizenship is permitted.
  • Japan–citizenship is lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Mexico–dual citizenship is permitted.
  • Pakistan–citizenship is lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship. Exception: Child born abroad who obtains the citizenship of the country of birth may retain dual citizenship until age 21. The person must then renounce the other citizenship or Pakistani citizenship will be revoked.
  • Poland–Poland does not recognize dual citizenship of its citizens. Polish law does not forbid a Polish citizen from becoming the citizen of a foreign state but Polish authorities will only recognize the Polish citizenship.
  • Philippines–citizenship is lost upon acquiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Romania–Dual citizenship is permitted.
  • Turkey–Dual citizenship is permitted.
  • Ukraine–Dual citizenship is permitted.
  • United Kingdom–dual citizenship is permitted.

You may want to confirm this with an expert on your country’s immigration laws.

Our firm would be pleased to assist you in evaluating the potential benefits of naturalization, and we would be pleased to assist you in applying when the time comes.

Helping Family Members to Immigrate

An LPR may file petitions with DHS for their spouse and unmarried children born abroad to become LPRs. They are subject to waiting lists before being allowed to immigrate.

Note that children born in the U.S. are automatically U.S. citizens. Moreover, a child born abroad to an LPR may be granted LPR status if the child is under 2 years of age and enters the U.S. accompanied by a parent upon the first return of the parent to the U.S. after the birth.

A naturalized U.S. citizen may file an immigrant petition for their spouse, married or unmarried children, parents, and siblings. A U.S. citizen’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old are not subject to waiting lists before immigrating.

Our firm is available to advise you regarding filing immigrant petitions for relatives.

  1. USCIS Improves Delivery of Immigration Documents through Secure Mail Initiative, May 2, 2011, AILA Infonet Doc. No. 11050231. If you have been waiting for more than two weeks for your card, you can call USCIS customer service at 800-375-5283 to request USPS tracking information for your card.

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