Congratulations on obtaining your green card! Now that you’re a permanent resident of the United States, you’ve inherited a host of new legal rights. However, with those rights come rules and responsibilities that you’ll have to abide by in order to maintain your permanent residency. Some of these rules are obvious, such as not committing crimes. But there are others, like informing the USCIS within 10 days of moving to a new home, which you may not be aware of. In the content below, we’ll go over your new green card rights as well as the green card rules you need to know in order to keep your permanent residency for life.
Your Green Card Rights
Now that you’re a green card holder, you’ve gained some new legal rights:
- You may become a legal employee for any business of your choosing. Restrictions do apply to some government jobs such as homeland security or any elected office position.
- You are protected under all federal, state, and local laws.
- You may obtain a driver’s license.
- You may own property or purchase a firearm.
- You may freely travel around the United States.
- You may request a visa for your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21.
- You may receive Medicare and Social Security benefits
Your Green Card Rules
Along with your new rights come some green card rules which you will need to follow in order to maintain your status as a permanent resident.
Rule #1: Don’t Commit Crimes
While abiding by the law is one of the “no-brainer” green card rules, you may be surprised to learn that the criminal offense doesn’t have to be a felony. In fact, misdemeanors and minor infractions can also put your green card status at risk. While the green card rules don’t include a comprehensive list of forbidden infractions, you should always be careful when it comes to your criminal record. If you are arrested for a crime, even a low-level crime such as a DUI, you should consult an immigration attorney immediately. An inexperienced lawyer, especially a lawyer without experience in immigration law, may urge you to plead guilty to such a crime so that you can get out of jail time. This may be the appropriate route for an American citizen, but in your situation, it’s a strategy that could result in your deportation.
Rule #2 Stay in Touch with the USCIS
Once you become a permanent resident of the United States, you may feel relaxed enough to let communication with the USCIS slip a bit. However, there are certain matters that you cannot neglect to report, including a change of address. In fact, if you move residencies at any point and you don’t notify the USCIS within 10 days, you risk your green card status. Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to let them know—just go online and submit your change of address.
Rule #3 Keep Your Permanent Home In the US
If you got your green card so that you could build a new life in the United States, this rule may seem odd to you. However, many people leave the US after obtaining a green card without realizing that they may potentially be violating green card rules. While you can still travel outside the US, you might run into some trouble if you’re gone for over a year. As a general rule of thumb, it’s advisable not to leave the country for more than six months at a time.
It should be noted, however, that leaving for over a year won’t result in the immediate revocation of your green card status. There are extenuating circumstances, such as the declining health of an immediate family member, that would be an acceptable excuse for your long absence. Another exception would be if you reside in Canada or Mexico and you acquired a green card so that you could commute to the US for work on a regular basis.
If you are unable to re-enter the US after a long absence, you will need to go the closest US consulate to ask for a special immigrant visa. There, you will have to provide evidence that your leave was not intended as an abandonment of your US residence, and that your prolonged absence was due to unexpected incidents. Such evidence could include a death certificate or an official letter from a doctor.
If you are fortunate enough to know ahead of time that you will be gone for a prolonged period of time, it is in your best interest to apply for a re-entry permit before you leave the country. This will allow you to stay outside the US for up to two years without jeopardizing your green card status. To do this, you will need to file Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document).
Other Green Card Rules and Responsibilities
In addition to the green card rules outlined above, there are several other responsibilities you will need to be aware of. Most of these are also required of US citizens.
Rule #4 Register with the Selective Service
This rule only applies if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25. The Selective Service, also known as the draft, is an independent government agency that holds information on potential military recruits. This is also a requirement of US citizens.
Rule #5 Support the US Government
As a green card holder, you will need to show your support for the US government. You may not make any attempt to alter the government through in any illegal or treasonous means.
Rule #6 Carry ID
As a new permanent resident of the United States, you will need to carry identification and validation of your green card status at all times.
Rule #7 Get Health Insurance
It is now required for all Americans, even US Citizens, to have some form of health insurance. Thanks to the ACA (Affordable Care Act), you may qualify for subsidized benefits.
If you abide by all of these green card rules, you are likely to keep your permanent resident status without any major issues. One way to avoid complications with any of these rules is to apply for US citizenship. As a US citizen, you will have a different set of rights which make it more difficult for you to be deported. However, this process can be difficult and usually takes up to several years to complete.
For advice on how to keep your green card status or how to achieve US citizenship, contact the experts at Katz Law Office Ltd. today for a free 30-minute consultation.
None of the advice contained in these materials serves as a substitute for individualized legal representation by a licensed attorney with experience in the practice area.