Permanent Residence

Permanent Residence in the United States

Residence Requirements


According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, most U.S. states limit some benefits, such as welfare payments or free medical care for indigents, to state residents; and all states limit voting to residents. Legislative classifications based on non-residence or out-of-state citizenship are not subjected to heightened judicial review.

Citizen vs. Permanent Resident

Differences between Permanent Resident and Citizen

In comparative law, citizenship of a country cannot be cancelled (in general) whereas Permanent residency it is possible provided the person was citizen from other country. In Canada, the term “permanent resident” is also used, although “landed immigrant” is still more common.

In the United States, if the interested person has been a green card holder for enough time, then he or she can become a U.S. citizen. Once that person is naturalized as a citizen, he or she will no longer be subject to the grounds of deportability that he or she were as a permanent resident (but see more below about this issue).

Citizenship or Permanent Residence?

In relation to the difference between becoming a citizen and getting permanent residence, sometimes, the terms “permanent resident” and “U.S. citizen” are confused with one another. Although both terms confer rights to live legally in the U.S, they mean, legally, very different issues. In fact, synonymous terms for immigrant status are, for example, Permanent Resident, immigrant, and green card holder.

Lawful Permanent Resident

A lawful permanent resident is a persona who has been granted the right to live in the U.S. indefinitely. Permanent residents are given a “green card” (a photo ID card that proves their status, but it is no longer of green color).

Permanent residence includes the right to work in the United States and to petition for close family members (spouse and unmarried children) to receive permanent residence and join the green card holder. However, the interested person (green card holder) family members will be considered “preference relatives,” meaning that only a limited number of immigrant visas are available to a number of persons in this category per year, and, therefore, that people may spend five or more years on a waiting list before being allowed to enter or remain in the U.S. or get a green card.

Permanent residents continue to remain the citizen of another country. So every time the interested person travel outside the United States, he or she should still carry the passport of that country (his or her citizenship country) as well as his or her green card, since they need to use their green card to reenter the United States.

Limited Rights

There are important limitations on lawful permanent residents’ rights, comparing to citizen´s rights. As mentioned above, the interested person do not have any rights to vote in U.S. elections. If the interested person leave the U.S. with the intention of making the interested person home elsewhere, he or she will be considered to have abandoned the interested person residence and given up the interested person green card. If a green card holder (lawful permanent or conditional resident) leaves the United States and wishes to return, the person’s trip must be for a temporary visit, not because that person’s “real” home is elsewhere. Making the interested person home in another country can lead to the conclusion that the interested person have “abandoned” (given up) his or her United States residence.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have the power to decide whether returning green card holders are living in other country – and if they believe the interested person are living outside the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may take steps to have the interested person green card revoked (cancelled).

Contrary to (often) popular thinking, the interested person can abandon his or here residence in as little as some days. However, it’s true that immigration officers will take a closer look if the interested person spend more than six months outside the United States. And if the interested person spend more than a year outside the United States, the immigration authorities will presume that the interested person have abandoned his or her United States residence, and the interested person will have an uphill battle convincing the immigration authorities otherwise.

In case the interested person plan to leave the U.S. for a period exceeding 12 months, it is advisable the idea of obtaining a reentry permit first. therefore, if the interested person is a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder), and he or she needs to spend a year or more outside the United States, the interested person would be wise to get a travel document called a “reentry permit” for the interested person return.

Although the interested person are certainly allowed to travel, and a green card (plus his or her own passport, as mentioned above) is normally all he or she needs for entry in the United States upon returning (and he or she still need to carry those), the situation changes a bit if the interested person spend a long time outside the United States. The immigration officers will wonder whether the interested person meant to abandon his or her United States residence. In fact, after one year, the interested person green card alone becomes invalid for United States entry. A reentry permit, as stated above, helps prove that the interested person did not mean to give up his or her green card. A reentry permit is also useful for another purpose: when the interested person cannot, or do not wish to, get a passport from his or her home country. The permit (which looks very much like a passport) can be used in its place.

Upon the interested person return from travel, he or she is subject to the same grounds of inadmissibility as he or she is faced when the interested person first got the green card. So, for instance, if the interested person has been receiving government assistance or welfare, he or she could be excluded at the border as a public charge. No person may get a U.S. green card or visa or other form of entry without first proving that they are not “inadmissible” to the United States. It doesn’t matter, in fact, that the interested person have married a U.S. citizen, have a job waiting for him or her, or are even standing at the border with a visa in his or her hand. The immigration laws attempt to protect the United States (as other countries do, in general, with more liberal -like Germany, in general, or less liberal immigration policies) from some people with histories of criminal or terrorist activities, drug abuse, or infectious medical problems, among other similar characteristics. Applicants who are found to be inadmissible will – unless they fall under an exception or successfully apply for a waiver (legal forgiveness) — not be allowed a visa, green card, or United States entry.


Another important limitation on lawful permanent residents is that they are subject to the grounds of deportability. If the interested person commit certain crimes or security violations, or even fail to advise USCIS of his or her changes of address, the interested person can be placed in removal proceedings and deported from the United States. The interested person, therefore, can lose the interested person green card. In the case of losing the green card itself (for example, on the street), the green card bearer needs to replace it. Physically losing the card doesn’t mean losing the permanent residence status, it just means the permanent resident has lost the evidence of that residence.

The interested person can also lose his or her permanent residence for any of a variety of reasons. Although a green card entitles the holder to several benefits in the U.S., including the right to live and work in the United States legally, these benefits come with limitations. Failure to know and abide by the rules can lead to the interested person losing his or her residence. Even if permanent resident is not “caught” in the short term, applying for United States citizenship may bring the problems to light — meaning the interested person could remain stuck in the somewhat insecure status of green card holder for a number of years, afraid to apply for citizenship.

U.S. National

After a certain length of time – five years in most cases – permanent residents who have shown good moral character and can speak, read, and write English and pass an exam on U.S. history and government can apply for U.S. citizenship (to naturalize). The N-400 form is the form that U.S. lawful permanent residents must fill out in order to apply for U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization. However, timing is important in this case (as, in general, all immigration’s issues). With very rare exceptions, a person who hasn’t yet become permanent resident is not allowed to apply to naturalize at all. And once a person become a U.S. permanent resident, he or she needs to consider the following timing issues:

  • the permanent resident age
  • how long the permanent resident has been a U.S. permanent (or conditional) resident
  • whether the permanent resident has been physically present in the United States for the required amount of time before applying to naturalize
  • whether the permanent resident has broken the continuity of the interested person U.S. residence with any long stays outside the United States
  • whether the permanent resident has lived in the same U.S. state for the required amount of time before applying to naturalize, and
  • when the interested person actually submit the application.

U.S. Citizen

People can become U.S. citizens by birth in the United States, through U.S. citizen parents (depending on the laws in effect at the time of their birth), or through the process known as naturalization.

A U.S. citizen is eligible to receive a U.S. passport, which is issued by the U.S. State department. Many countries allow visa-free travel for U.S. citizens.

A U.S. citizen can leave and reenter the U.S. at any time without being subject to the grounds of inadmissibility or requiring a reentry permit. There are no restrictions on the number of days the interested person can remain outside the United States.

U.S. citizens can vote in U.S. federal and local elections, hold certain government jobs, and serve on juries. Many federal and state government grants, scholarships and benefits are available only to U.S. citizens.

As a U.S. citizen, the interested person can petition for a number of the interested person relatives to immigrate. U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have family members living outside the United States can file petitions to help them immigrate (get a U.S. immigrant visa, which leads to a green card, or lawful permanent residence). This serves the U.S. policy goal of family reunification.

The application process to obtain an immigrant visa for the interested person eligible family members will follow the same basic steps whether the interested person are a U.S. citizen (USC) or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). We’re assuming the interested person family member lives overseas; if he or she is already in the U.S., you’ll need to look into a different process, called “Adjustment of Status”. The actual processing time will vary depending on a number of factors:

The interested person status (USC or LPR) as the “petitioner”; the whereabouts of the interested person family member (called the “beneficiary”) including the beneficiary’s country of origin; the interested person family relationship; and the personal circumstances or situation of the beneficiary.

The interested person spouse, unmarried children under age 21, and parents will be considered immediate relatives, and eligible to immigrate just as soon as the interested person can get through all the paperwork and interviews. The interested person´s married children and children over age 21, as well as his or her brothers and sisters, are considered preference relatives, and can be put on a waiting list to immigrate. (This may take several years, especially for the siblings.).

U.S. citizens cannot be deported from the United States – unless, that is, they committed fraud in order to obtain their green card or citizenship.

The naturalization process

Gaining U.S. citizenship can provide many opportunities for a resident of the United States. Among these are access to a U.S. passport, the right to vote in public elections, and protection from deportation. However, becoming an American Citizen requires a few steps, which are described here:

Find Out Whether the interested person Are Eligible

The first question is whether the interested person have a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence). With very few exceptions, the interested person must obtain a green card before the interested person become eligible to apply for citizenship. So if the interested person has not yet reached this point, learn about his or her eligibility in the section about eligibility for a U.S. Green Card.

As a lawful permanent resident, the interested person must meet additional requirements in order to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. These concern the length of time he or she has spent in the U.S. as a green card holder, the interested person good moral character, the interested person ability to pass a test in English, and on U.S. history and government, and more.

Overcome Barriers to the interested person Ineligibility

The interested person may be not eligible to become a citizen during some time. Perhaps the interested person can’t show good moral character because the interested person committed a minor crime (though not a major enough one to make the interested person deportable). Or perhaps the interested person broke the continuity of the interested person residence by spending too long outside the United States. It may be that simply waiting longer will make the interested person eligible for citizenship, or the interested person may need to take other steps to make the interested person eligible.

File USCIS Form N-400

Once the interested person have established his or her eligibility, the interested person needs to file some paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The N-400 is the form to get the process started. As of 2015, it cost $595 to file the application for naturalization, plus an $85 biometrics fee. The interested person will need to attach a copy of the interested person green card.

Once the interested person application has been accepted, he or she will be mailed a date for the interested person fingerprinting and biometrics. See our tips for filing the N-400 to find out what to expect.

Get Fingerprinted

In order to process the interested person application, a background check will have to be performed. He or she will be given a date and address to a local office where the interested person will be fingerprinted. The interested person´s fingerprints will be run through the FBI for a background check.

Attend a Citizenship Interview

After his or herfingerprinting, the interested person should receive an appointment date and address for an interview with a UCSIC officer. During this interview, the officer will go through the interested person´s N-400 and confirm his or her answers to all the questions. The officer will also test the interested person knowledge of English and of U.S. civics.

Attend the Oath Ceremony

If the interested person are approved at (or soon after) his or her interview, he or she is not a citizen quite yet. The interested person will be called in for a large public ceremony, at which the interested person and others will be given the oath, in which he or she swear loyalty to the United States. Then the interested person will be given a certificate of naturalization, showing that the interested person are a U.S. citizen.

Dual citizenship

Nowhere does the law say that a person can be a dual citizen with the United States — but then, nowhere does it say that one can’t.

Historically, the U.S. government has used this vagueness as an opportunity to make people believe that choosing U.S. citizenship excludes all others. The oath that people take at their swearing-in ceremony (quoted below) would make anyone think that they were agreeing to give up all other citizenships right then and there. It says that the person will “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which [you] have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”

However, the fact of the matter is that the United States will not actually stop someone from keeping citizenship in another country after becoming a U.S. citizen. Nor will it cancel the U.S. citizenship of someone who becomes a citizen of another country. The key is whether the other country’s laws allow it.


Dual citizenship can be important for a number of reasons. Some people feel a huge sense of loss in giving up the passport of the country they once called home. More practically, the laws of their home country may require that giving up other important rights along with the citizenship—such as rights to a pension, to receive government-paid health care if the person becomes elderly or disabled, to vote, or to own land there.

Can the interested person Apply to the U.S. Government for Dual Citizenship?

Because the U.S. government does not formally sanction dual citizenship, there are no particular procedures to follow if the interested person become a naturalized U.S. citizen but want to keep the interested person old citizenship. No one will give the interested person a certificate or other evidence that the U.S. government recognizes and approves the interested person dual status. The interested person home country, however, may require more.

First, find out whether the interested person home country will cancel the interested person citizenship if the interested person are naturalized as a U.S. citizen. If cancellation isn’t automatic, find out whether the interested person have to take special steps to keep the interested person home citizenship.

Immigration Based on Marriage to a U.S. Citizen vs. a Green Card Holder

Immigrants can obtain permanent resident status through marriage to either a U.S. citizen or green card holder, but the rules are a little different in each case. The interested person will hopefully make the choice of whether to marry a U.S. permanent resident (green card holder) or a U.S. citizen based on personal, not immigration considerations. The interested person will be eligible for an immigrant visa (green card) in both cases. But there is no doubt that marrying a U.S. citizen leads to a faster green card.

Green cards are no work permits. Although green cards and work permits are both photo identity cards, and they both permit the holder to work in the United States, they represent vastly different statutes.

Family-Based Immigration

One of the most common ways immigrants gain permanent residency in the U.S. is through family members – by marriage and blood. U.S. immigration laws are designed, in-part, to unite family members. For that reason, there are numerous ways for an immigrant to obtain legal status in the U.S. through a spouse, sibling, or other family member.

Non-Resident vs. Resident Alien Status

The terms “resident alien” and “non-resident alien” are actually from the federal tax laws. Resident aliens owe tax on all their income, while non-resident alien owe tax only on income generated from U.S. sources.

In the United States, “alien” is the term used within the immigration laws to refer to a citizen of another country. However, the terms “resident alien” and “non-resident alien” are actually terms from the federal tax laws. Resident aliens owe tax on all their income, while non-resident alien owe tax only on income generated from U.S. sources. As the interested person becomes better acquainted with these definitions, he or she will realize that there is no need need to have a green card in order to owe taxes to the U.S. government.






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