When you register to participate in the Green Card Lottery, the goal is to get a Green Card. But the term "Green Card" really means "legal permanent residence" in the United States. When you are successful in the Green Card Lottery, you will receive a Green Card (or legal permanent residence) and with that status comes many rights and responsibilities.
Becoming a permanent resident of the United States will have a remarkable effect on your legal rights in the United States. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are entitled to many new rights and privileges. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are also required to comply with some very basic duties and obligations. The intention of this page is to provide you with a quick overview of these rights and duties so that you can begin to understand the meaning of your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States.
YOUR GREEN CARD WILL ALLOW YOU TO:
- REMAIN IN THE UNITED STATES INDEFINATELY WITH A GREEN CARD.
- WORK ANY JOB FOR WHICH YOU QUALIFY AND CAN OBTAIN.
- START YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
- TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES.
- FILE FOR US CITIZENSHIP AND BECOME A UNITED STATES CITIZEN.
I. RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES ENJOYED BY LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENTS
A. THE RIGHT TO REMAIN IN THE UNITED STATES PERMANENTLY
Another major benefit you now enjoy as a Lawful Permanent Resident is the ability to remain in the United States indefinitely, assuming that you remain law-abiding.
B. THE RIGHT TO BECOME A U.S. CITIZEN
You are eligible to apply for American citizenship once you have been a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years, or three years, if married to and cohabiting with a U.S. citizen for three years after obtaining your Lawful Permanent Resident status.
C. THE RIGHT, IN GENERAL, TO TRAVEL ABROAD FREELY WITHOUT THE NEED TO OBTAIN A VISA TO RETURN TO THE U.S.
As a Lawful Permanent Resident your Green Card can be used as travel document. Provided you do not remain abroad for more than one year, you will be able to re-enter the United States by merely presenting your Green Card to the immigration authorities.
D. THE RIGHT TO FILE IMMIGRANT PETITIONS FOR RELATIVES
One of the most important benefits you have as a Lawful Permanent Resident is the right to petition for certain relatives, your spouse and unmarried children of any age. (This means that you can file an application with the US Government to grant your relatives US visas.) You may file a petition for an eligible relative as soon as you have been approved for permanent residence. A successful petition entitles the relative to enter the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident LPR, the same legal status as you. (When you become a citizen, you will be entitled to petition for your parents, married children, and brothers and sisters).
E. THE RIGHT TO MORE PROTECTION AGAINST DEPORTATION THAN NON-LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENTS
When deportation proceedings are initiated against a Lawful Permanent Resident, that individual has more alternative grounds for relief from deportation than does a non-Lawful Permanent Resident.
F. THE RIGHT TO CERTAIN PRIVATE-SECTOR BENEFITS
Some employers and private-sector institutions may give you preferential treatment because you are a Lawful Permanent Resident. Some employers may legally discriminate against non-Lawful Permanent Residents, thus being a Lawful Permanent Resident is advantageous.
G. THE RIGHT TO SOCIAL SECURITY
If you do not already have one, you may obtain a Social Security Card as soon as you receive your Lawful Permanent Resident status. You should have the following documents with you: passport and proof of Lawful Permanent Resident status.
II. THE OBLIGTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS FACING AN LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT
LOSS OF LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS COULD OCCUR IF:
- You are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or other serious offenses. (Minor drug offenses may result in loss of Lawful Permanent Resident status as well.)
- You separate from the spouse or employer who petitioned for you shortly after obtaining your status.
- It is determined that you were ineligible for Lawful Permanent Resident status at the time of receiving it.
- You accept a permanent job abroad.
- You stay outside the U.S. for more than one year without a valid Re-Entry Permit.
- You abandon your residence in the United States.
- You fail to register for Selective Service. (Men age 18 to 26 are required to register for Selective Service within thirty days of their eighteenth birthday.)
- You fail to pay your taxes. (You must pay U.S. income taxes on all your worldwide income. If you were previously in the U.S. on a temporary work visa, only your U.S. income tax is subject to taxation. You should begin to pay taxes as a U.S. resident, filing a return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) no later than April 15 the year after you become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). Failure to do so could result in a finding that you have abandoned your LPR status, even if you legitimately file as a non-resident).
- You encourage, induce, assist, abate, or aid any other alien to enter or to try to enter the United States in violation of law.
- You procured a visa or other documentation by fraud.
- You are engaged in or have engaged in terrorist activities.
- You become a public charge from causes not affirmatively shown to have arisen since entry within five years after the date of entry.
- You vote in violation of any federal, state, or local constitutional provision, statute, ordinance, or regulation.