Lawful Permanent Residence Status

Lawful Permanent Resident Status

Foreign nationals who have recently been approved for Lawful Permanent Resident status usually have several questions regarding maintaining their status, their responsibilities and obligations, etc.  This memorandum is based upon the questions most often asked us.


DOCUMENTATION — After receiving your approval notice welcoming you to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, within the next six (6) weeks, you should receive your permanent resident card (aka “green card”) (I-551) in the mail. Please note, if you move in the interim, your “green card” will not be forwarded to your new address, unless you have changed your address with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by filing Form AR-11.  Failure to receive the card only indicates a breakdown in the processing system.  It does not normally indicate any problem with your status.

In cases where there is a delay in receiving your green card, you may make an INFOPASS appointment with your local USCIS office to have your passport stamped with a temporary I-551 endorsement. INFOPASS appointments can be made online through the following link: passport stamp serves as your temporary evidence of permanent residence.  If you have received your Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status through Immigrant Visa Processing (IVP), your passport is likely already stamped to evidence your LPR status when you entered the U.S.

Except for conditional residents, green cards now have a 10 year expiration date.  Currently, an Form I-90 form is filed to extend the green card. Of course, if you become a U.S. citizen in the meantime, you would not need to renew your Permanent Resident Card.

INCOME TAXES — Lawful Permanent residents are subject to United States income tax on all income, no matter where it’s earned.  It cannot be over emphasized that any income which you may realize outside the U.S. is subject to U.S. Income Tax.  Under certain circumstances, such income might be exempt from U.S. taxation, provided the income is reported on a timely return and the exemption is claimed.  Please note that failure to report income and pay taxes thereon can subject you to fines and/or imprisonment.  It can also jeopardize any future citizenship application.  If you desire more detailed tax information, we recommend that you consult with an attorney or accountant who specializes in international taxation.


TRAVEL DOCUMENTS — For travel abroad, you are required to use the passport from your home country.  Your “green card” (or temporary stamp in your passport) serves as a visa to return to the United States.  As a general rule, a “green card” is valid for re-entry for one year (this is not permission to remain outside of the United States for extended periods of time.  Please refer to the information on retention of status below).

If you cannot obtain a new passport, or you are traveling to a country which does not recognize your passport, it is possible to obtain a permit in the form of a passport style book.  This permit can be used in lieu of a passport.


RETENTION OF STATUS — You are now entitled to live and reside permanently in the United States.  However, a “green card” does not give you the right to live outside of the United States with privilege of being able to come back.  It is possible to abandon your permanent resident status.

In order to retain your status, you must, whenever you are outside the United States, retain an intent to return to the United States.  You must always think of the United States as home and not establish permanent residence elsewhere.  Your main “tie” must be to the United States.

Inasmuch as the United States Government is incapable of reading minds, the law has developed objective indicia of intent in order to determine your “ties” to the United States.

The first indicia is time spent outside of the United States.  Contrary to a popular belief, it is not sufficient to spend one week per year in the order to retain residence.  In fact, if such a pattern should be spotted at a U.S. port of entry, it can result in an exclusion hearing.

The other indicia can consist of filing U.S.income tax returns, ownership of property in the U.S., family in the U.S.and many other factors.  To summarize, it is best that your affairs be conducted consistent with an intention that the U.S. is your primary place of residence.

If you intend to remain outside of  the U.S. for more than six months on any one trip, or spend over one-half of your time outside the U.S., it is essential that you consult with our office, so we can determine whether a REENTRY PERMIT would be recommended to assure preservation of your status.


REPORTING CHANGE OF ADDRESS REQUIREMENT As a non-U.S. citizen (alien), you must report any change of address within ten (10) days to (USCIS) by completing and filing Form AR-11. USCIS plans to strictly enforce this requirement and new regulations are expected.  The Form AR-11, along with additional information on this requirement, is available on the USCIS website at


CITIZENSHIP – Possession of a “green card” is a general prerequisite to obtaining U.S. Citizenship.  In order to become a U.S. citizen, generally, you will have to show 5 years lawful permanent residence (3 years if married to and living with a U.S. citizen), one half of which has been spent physically in the United States.  An absence of over one year breaks continuity of residence.  You will have to show good moral character for the required residence.  You will have to show a basic understanding of the English language and knowledge of the U.S. Government and institutions.  To read more about the naturalization process, please visit our pages on Naturalization: U.S. Citizenship, Requirements of U.S. Citizenship, and Applying for Naturalization.


CRIMINAL OFFENSES — If you should be charged with any criminal offense, a conviction thereof can have adverse immigration consequences.  It has been known to happen that a green card holder will plead guilty to a minor offense to avoid the financial expense of a vigorous defense.  Thereafter, it is discovered that the plea has caused unintended adverse immigration consequences.  These consequences can include denial of U.S. citizenship or being placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court.

In order to wage the “war on drugs,” U.S.immigration law is particularly strict regarding drugs and firearms offenses.  It is important to note that conviction of any law or ordinance relating to firearms (guns) is a ground of deportation.  This is true even if the firearms violation is not related to drugs.  For example, conviction of a concealed pistol in violation of a city ordinance against concealed weapons will be a deportable offense even if the sole purpose of possessing the pistol was for self-defense.

If you should be should be arrested or charged with any offense, please contact our office immediately.


EMPLOYMENT — As a lawful permanent resident, you are generally free to reside and work anywhere in the U.S.  However, if you obtained your status based upon an offer of employment, failure to enter into that employment after entry can have irreversible adverse consequences in the future in regards to your immigration or citizenship status.  If for any reason whatsoever, you obtained your “green card” based upon an offer of employment and then fail to enter into that employment, contact our office immediately.


SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER: A social security number is used for identification and employment purposes. If working in the U.S., you are required to have a social security number for tax purposes. Information on the application process can be found at

If you were in the U.S.previously working as a nonimmigrant, you may already have a social security number; however upon receiving your LPR status you may need to obtain a new social security number that evidences your change in status.  New regulations have been adapted for social security numbers for nonimmigrants and green card holders.


RELATIVE IMMIGRATION – Permanent residents can petition for the immigration of an alien spouse or unmarried sons and daughters of any age via the second family preference.  Given the current visa backlogs and the fact that the petition filing date establishes a priority date, it is advantageous to file as soon as possible.  Upon obtaining U.S. citizenship, but not before, permanent residents can also petition for parents, brothers and sisters.  If you obtained your green card through marriage, a spousal petition within five years for a new spouse will be subject to inquiry in regards to the prior marriage by which you obtained permanent residence. For a discussion of family-based preference categories, please click here.


VOTING – In general, permanent residents are not permitted to vote for political candidates in federal or state elections.  Only U.S. citizens have this right.  Applicants for naturalization are asked if they ever voted and if they did, this could be a disqualification and even trigger a deportation action.


ADDRESS CHANGE REPORTING REQUIREMENT FOR AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT SPONSORS – The law now requires that individuals submitting a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, are required to advise USCIS of any address change by submitting Form I-865.


Revised June 6, 2012