So you have become a permanent resident. Now what?
There are several important considerations for any lawful permanent resident of the United States. Learn more about important post-approval obligations here.
Conditional Permanent Residency
If you were granted a two year permanent resident card, your status as a lawful permanent resident is conditional. This means that you must file a Form I – 751 petition for removal of conditions in the period beginning 90 days prior to the two year card expiring. It must not be filed early, and must not be filed late – i.e., after the card expires, or you risk termination of status and removal from the United States.
- Jointly Filed Petitions: Form I – 751 is considered jointly filed when, at the time of filing, the US citizen and conditional resident are still married and both sign the petition. The couple should also be living together, or it is strongly recommended that an attorney is retained to help with the filing. Frequently, in jointly-filed cases, particularly when a sufficient amount of evidence is submitted with the filing, the couple does not have to appear for an interview.
- Widows/ Widowers: Form I -751 may be filed by the widow(er) of the US citizen if the marriage was entered into in good faith and not for the purpose of evading immigration laws. The widow(er) will be required to show proof that the US citizen petitioner has deceased and evidence of the good faith marriage.
- Divorce or Annulment: Form I – 751 may be filed by a permanent resident who has since divorced the US citizen spouse. The divorce must be final and the permanent resident will be required to demonstrate that he or she entered the marriage in good faith and not for the purposes of committing immigration fraud. It is strongly recommended that an attorney is retained to help file this case type.
- Battery or Extreme Cruelty: Form I – 751 may be filed by a lawful permanent resident who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by his or her US citizen spouse. Divorce is not require to meet this standard. It is strongly recommended that an attorney is retained to help file this case type.
- Form I – 751 may be filed if the conditional permanent resident can demonstrate that he or she will suffer an “extreme hardship” if he or she is removed. There are many complex issues surrounding this waiver. It is strongly recommended that an attorney is retained to help file this case type.
Selective Service Registration
If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26, you must register for the Selective Service within 30 days of becoming a permanent resident. Visit www.sss.gov.
Change of Address for Immigrant or Sponsor
As a permanent resident, you are required to notify USCIS of a change of address within 10 days of moving using Form AR-11. This is important as you could technically face removal from the United States if this is not done. Willful failure to update your address is also a misdemeanor crime. The financial sponsor(s) must also notify USCIS of any change in address using Form I – 865. Both forms can be found at www.uscis.gov.
Travel Outside of the United States
You should never travel outside of the United States without your passport and your permanent resident card.
If you plan on traveling outside of the United States for six months or more (or if you will be taking several extended trips outside of the United States, or establishing employment or a place of residence outside of the United States), you should apply for a reentry permit before leaving the United States. The reentry permit must be requested, and the fingerprinting requirements fulfilled, while you are in the United States. If you do not obtain a reentry permit, you are at a higher risk of loosing your status as a permanent legal resident of the United States for “abandonment.”
Prolonged travel is risky. It also can disrupt the period it takes for you to be eligible to apply for naturalization to become a US citizen.
Filing Taxes as a”Resident”
You should file taxes as advised by your accountant or tax attorney as a “resident” of the United States so that your intention to maintain status as a lawful permanent resident cannot be challenged.
Criminal Arrests & Charges
If you are ever arrested or cited for any criminal violation (whether misdemeanor or felony), you must speak with an experienced immigration lawyer prior to accepting any plea agreement, including a deferred judgement agreement. You may be removed from the United States and lose your status as a lawful permanent resident for even minor convictions or guilty pleas that are later dismissed by the court.
You are NOT a Citizen and NOT Allowed to Vote
You may be eligible to apply for citizenship after 5 years of being a permanent resident – or 3 years if married to a US citizen and living in marital union. Early filing (90 days in advance) may be possible.
However, until if and when you do become a US citizen, you are NOT permitted to vote, register to vote or otherwise claim you are a US citizen. If you vote in a federal, state or local election, you may never be able to become a US citizen, and you may be removed from the United States. It is also a crime to vote as a lawful permanent resident.
Special care should be taken at the DMV (or online when renewing a license) not to inadvertently check a box that you are a citizen. This has caused many people to be deported from the United States.
Possession of Firearms and Concealed Weapons Permits
Immigrants in the United States with non-immigrant visas (i.e., tourist visa, work visa, etc.) are not allowed to possess firearms in most cases. This is generally considered a crime. However, lawful permanent residents of the United States are able to possess firearms. Be careful though, a “firearms offense” regardless of how minor – i.e., accidental discharge – may result in removal from the United States.