Each year, about one million people receive US permanent resident status, also known as green cards. Lawful US permanent resident status gives an individual the right to live and work permanently in the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) however says this right is only provided the green card holder does not commit any actions that would make them removable from the country under immigration law.
Failure to follow some guidelines could make green card holders be at risk of deportation, or make them ineligible for US citizenship.
USCIS and Immigration law experts provide some guidelines on how to maintain permanent resident status:
- Maintain permanent residence in the US. The US government will find you to have abandoned your permanent resident status if you remain outside the US for a period of more than one year. If you intend to be out of the country for more than one year as a green card holder, USCIS and immigration experts advice you to first obtain a re-entry permit before leaving the US.
- Do not commit crime. In addition to penalties you will face for committing crime, USCIS says those offenses are also considered immigration violations. Permanent residents who commit serious crimes such as murder, rape, sexual assault on minors, fraud, terrorist activities, drugs and people trafficking, could lose their lawful permanent resident status and also become ineligible for naturalization in the future.
- Always file taxes, and make sure to file the US resident tax return (Federal Form 1040). This applies even if all your income was earned outside the US.
- Never claim to be a US citizen when you are not, whether verbally or in writing. Immigrants are especially warned that claiming to be a citizen to a law enforcement officer is considered a serious crime and could make you deported if found guilty, or make you ineligible for naturalization.
- Permanent residents are warned to never vote in national, state or local elections that require voters to be US citizens. There are criminal penalties for illegal voting. Such voting could also lead to the loss of your green card.
- Do not be a habitual drunkard. A permanent resident who is deemed to be drunk or uses illegal drugs most of the time is ineligible to become a US citizen.
- Failing to support your family or pay child or spousal support could make permanent residents lose their green cards or ineligible for naturalization.
- Males between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by US law to register for the Selective Service.