USA: Tips for Green-Card Winners and other Immigrants

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Permanent Resident


As a permanent resident, you are expected to respect and be loyal to the United States and to obey our country’s laws. Being a permanent resident also means that you have new rights and responsibilities. Being a permanent resident is a “privilege” and not a “right.” The U.S. government can take away your permanent resident status under certain conditions. You must maintain your permanent resident status if you want to live and work in the United States and become a U.S. citizen one day. In this section, you will learn what it means to be a permanent resident and how you can maintain your permanent resident status.


Your Rights and Responsibilities


What you do now as a permanent resident can affect your ability to become a U.S. citizen later. The process of becoming a U.S. citizen is called “naturalization.”


As a permanent resident, you have the right to:


• Live and work permanently anywhere in the U.S.

• Apply to become a U.S. citizen once you are eligible.

• Request visas for your husband or wife and unmarried children to live in the U.S.

• Get Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare benefits, if you are eligible.

• Own property in the U.S.

• Apply for a driver’s license in your state or territory.

• Leave and return to the U.S. under certain conditions.

• Attend public school and college.

• Join certain branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

• Purchase or own a firearm, as long as there are no state or local restrictions saying you can’t.


As a permanent resident, it is your responsibility to:


• Obey all federal, state, and local laws.

• Pay federal, state, and local income taxes.

• Register with the Selective Service (U.S. Armed Forces), if you are a male between ages 18 and 26.

• Maintain your immigration status.

• Carry proof of your permanent resident status at all times.

• Change your address online or provide it in writing to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days of each time you move.


Permanent residents are issued a valid Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) as proof of their legal status in the United States. Some people call this a “Green Card.”

If you are a permanent resident who is 18 years or older, you must carry proof of your immigration status. You must show it to an immigration officer if asked for it. Your card is valid for 10 years and must be renewed before it expires. You should file Form I-90 to replace or renew your Permanent Resident Card. You can get this form here or by calling the USCIS Forms Line. There is a fee to file Form I-90.


Your Permanent Resident Card shows that you are allowed to live and work in the United States. You also can use your Permanent Resident Card to re-enter the United States. If you are outside the U.S. for more than 12 months, you will need to show additional documentation to re-enter the U.S. as a permanent resident. See page 10 for more information on the documents required to re-enter the U.S. if you are out of the country for more than 12 months. Keep important documents you brought from your home country in a safe place. These documents include your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, diplomas showing that you have graduated from high school or college, and certificates that show you have special training or skills.


Citation: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Citizenship, Welcome to the United States: A guide for New Immigrants, Washington, DC, 2007, Revised Edition.