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Permanent Resident Rights

green card or lawful permanent residency allows an individual to work and live in the U.S. permanently. Green card holders, otherwise known as legal permanent residents (LPRs), enjoy most of the benefits and freedoms a U.S. citizen has under U.S. government regulations. They can also have the same protection under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Permanent residents are granted the right to be free from discrimination based on ethnicity, race, and national origin. They also are granted rights to education, employment, health care, housing, etc. They can adjust their immigration status through naturalization.

The following is a list of lawful permanent residents' fundamental rights and freedoms.

Rights of Permanent Residents

As a permanent resident, you have the right to:

  • Live permanently anywhere in the U.S., so long as you do not commit any acts that could subject you to deportation or removal under immigration law
  • Work lawfully in the United States for any position you are qualified for. Although, for security reasons, some jobs may be limited to U.S. citizens
  • Apply to become a U.S. citizen once you meet the eligibility requirements
  • Petition your family members and unmarried children to live in the U.S.
  • Obtain Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare benefits if eligible
  • Own property in the U.S.
  • Apply for a driver's license in your state or territory
  • Attend public schools and colleges
  • Join certain branches of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Purchase or own a firearm, as long as no state or local laws say you can't
  • Vote in local elections where U.S. citizenship is not a requirement. There are some jurisdictions in the U.S. where a noncitizen is allowed to vote in local elections (you can learn more about U.S. election voting qualifications from your local voting authority)
  • Be protected by all laws of the U.S., your state of residence, and local jurisdictions, including those regarding selective services

Additionally, you have the right to leave and return to the U.S. under certain conditions. However, you cannot leave the U.S. for an extended period of time or move to another country to live there permanently without a reentry permit, and only then for up to two years.

Those wishing to stay abroad for six months or more should file appropriate documents with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Their application should establish their intention to keep their lawful permanent residence in the U.S. and that they will not abandon their LPR status. Those with criminal convictions should determine whether this might create a bar to admission before traveling. Travel outside of the United States should also be avoided if your permanent resident card is close to expiration, or you are currently awaiting the renewal of your permanent residency.

A permanent resident should be cautious about exercising some of these rights.

A firearms-related conviction, voting in a federal election, leaving the United States under certain circumstances, and other actions could result in inadmissibility for citizenship and, in some cases, even revocation of permanent resident status.

These rights are discussed further in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Learn More About Your Rights as a Permanent Resident: Contact a Lawyer

You may want to consult a legal professional before acting on your rights as a person with LPR status. A lawyer can warn you of unexpected risks or suggest actions that can help protect and preserve your status. They can also provide guidance through the legal immigration process and assist you or your immediate relatives in adjusting their nonimmigrant visas.

For more information about the legal immigration process, employment-based applications, or other assistance related to immigration law, contact a local immigration attorney near you. An immigration lawyer can help you understand the law and provide legal advice tailored to your case.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.

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