More than a million people in the United States live in lawful permanent resident status. People become permanent residents in different ways,- through marriage, close family members, employment, and others. There are several benefits of holding a green card. This article explains green card benefits, the responsibilities of having a green card, and some limitations green card holders face.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated November 22, 2022
The Primary Benefits of Having a Green Card
Having a U.S. green card (permanent resident card) is very advantageous. The main benefit is that the green card holder can permanently live and work in the United States. Eventually, you can also apply to become a U.S. citizen. Here are the primary benefits of a green card:
You can eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you have eligibility for naturalization after three years. Otherwise, you can apply after five years.
The U.S. government cannot deport you to your home country. Regardless of any future changes to immigration law, people with green card status will never face deportation. Green cards are not temporary.
However, you can lose residency if you commit a crime or violate a law. If you have a criminal record, you should consult the legal advice of an immigration lawyer or immigration law firm before proceeding with your green card application..
You do not have to renounce the citizenship of your country of origin.
The laws of the United States, your state of residence, and your local jurisdiction legally protect you.
You can sponsor other family members who want to file a green card application. However, family members of U.S. citizens take priority over family members of immigrant visa holders or green card holders.
As a lawful permanent resident (LPR), you can renew your green card every 10 years.
You can travel internationally more easily than other visa holders, such as people with work visas like the H-1B visa or other nonimmigrant visas. Permanent residents can travel abroad and re-enter the United States with a valid green card if they return within 12 months.
You can travel or live anywhere in the United States. State borders do not limit you. You do not need to verify your immigration status with any government agencies to travel.
You are eligible for federal benefits, including government-sponsored financial aid for education and Social Security. You also get in-state or resident tuition rates at specific colleges or universities. If you live in the United States long enough, you can receive Social Security benefits.
You can apply for many jobs. You will have more job opportunities than people with work permits. For example, you can work for the government in positions that require specific security clearances.
You can engage in politics at all levels. You can make financial contributions or volunteer for a candidate in any U.S. election.
What Are the Responsibilities of Green Card Holders?
Once you become a green card holder, you have specific responsibilities, including the following:
You will need to file income tax returns and report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax authorities.
You are obligated to obey the law, including for the United States, your state of residence, and local jurisdiction.
If you are male and between 18 to 25, you need to register for the Selective Service. However, the United States has not had a draft since 1973.
You need to carry a valid green card at all times. Otherwise, you could face up to 30 days in jail.
Like U.S. citizens, you cannot attempt to change the government in any illegal ways.
What Are Some Limitations of Having a Green Card?
Although you can live and work in the United States and enjoy most of the same benefits as U.S. citizens, you do not yet have the full rights of a citizen. These are some of the limitations you will face as a green card holder:
You cannot vote in U.S. elections.
You have a lower priority than U.S. citizens when sponsoring family members for green cards.
Your green card is not transferable. It does not extend automatically to children born outside of the United States.
You cannot run for political office in the United States.
You can't get a U.S. passport with a green card.
If you leave the U.S. permanently after eight years or more, you are subject to expatriation and exit taxes. This limitation is the same for U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not guarantee you complete protection from deportation. For example, if you commit certain crimes, you may face deportation under immigration law.
You need to renew your green card every ten years.
Getting a green card can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the green card process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit, we may be able to refer you to an experienced immigration attorney to help. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!