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Can I Vote With a Green Card?

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on October 18, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Legal Permanent Residents (LPR), also knows as Green Card holders, are allowed many of the same rights as U.S. Citizens: access to public schools, a driver's license, obtaining social security and Medicare benefits, and visas for spouses, just to name a few. In fact, there are so many overlaps that many Green Card holders aren't always aware that there are key differences.

But some Green Card rights are limited, and LPRs should be wise to these limitations. Violation of some of these limitations will lead to deportation. So, what about voting with a Greed Card?

Voting in Federal Elections

Green card holders cannot vote in federal elections, but they can vote in state and local elections so long as the local jurisdiction doesn't require U.S. citizenship to vote. It may seem like a hassle to see what your local voting rules are, but it is well worth your while, since voting in an election you aren't allowed to is cause for deportation from the U.S. The rule is rather hard and fast; little, if any, concern is given if you didn't know you were breaking the law or if the voting workers allowed it to happen.

In addition to federal voting restrictions, Green Card holders should be aware of other issues related to citizenship, including traveling outside the U.S. and firearm convictions.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Leaving the U.S. with a Green Card isn't the problem, but rather, re-entry is. The concept behind legal permanent residency is that a foreign national is trying to make the U.S. his or her forever home. LPRs can lose their status if they show anything to the contrary. Though there is no hard and fast rule, generally speaking, stays outside the country for longer than a year may cause you to lose your LPS status, and bar re-entry to the U.S. Therefore, most immigration experts recommend travel outside of the U.S. be limited to six months or less.  

Rules for Owning a Firearm

LPRs are allowed to purchase and possess firearms, pursuant to state and local laws. However, a firearms related conviction can lead to ineligibility of citizenship and possibly deportation. There may be some instances where a lawyer could mitigate this violation, and stop deportation proceedings, such as if the crime committed with the firearm was not violent or a crime of moral turpitude. However, once ICE proceedings begin, deportation can be a slippery slope.

Holding a Green Card certainly entitles LPRs to many rights, but you may want to consult a legal professional before exercising some of them. An immigration lawyer can warn you of unexpected risks or suggest actions that can help mitigate your risk and preserve your status, which may be quite necessary if you wish to eventually become a U.S. Citizen.

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