Your responsibilities as a green card holder

For many, obtaining a green card marks the end of a long and difficult process and is an occasion for celebration. However, lawful permanent residents (or LPRs, i.e. green card holders) should be aware that their new status comes with certain responsibilities.


  Recommendations & Requirements

  • Make color copies of your card(s), front and back. We recommend that you make at least two copies. Send one to our office, and keep the other in a safe place. Having copies will make it much easier to replace your card if it is lost or stolen.
  • Complete a new I-9 form for your employer.
  • If you are male, and between 18-26 years old, you need to register for selective service, also known as the military draft. The Selective Service website has instructions. 
  • Assess your immigration situation before you travel outside of the United States. Your status is revocable; you should be careful not to "abandon" your status. 
  • Notify USCIS whenever you change addresses. Until you become a U.S. citizen, you are required to notify USCIS whenever you change residences. You can report your change of address online, at the USCIS website. 
  • Be careful about international tax compliance.
  • Consider applying for citizenship when you become eligible. 
  • If you received a Conditional Permanent Resident card, valid for two years, you must file Form I-751 within the 90 day window before your current green card expires.
  • All LPRs should consider applying for U.S. citizenship when they become eligible. New federal laws say that even LPRs cannot get federal jobs unless they apply for citizenship as soon as they are eligible. Also, once the LPR has a U.S. passport, there are no restrictions on length of absence from the United States. Keep in mind though that some countries do not allow dual citizenship. Therefore, becoming a U.S. citizen may mean having to abandon your citizenship abroad. Please see this.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why do they call it a "green card"? 

The latest incarnation of the Lawful Permanent Resident card is mostly off-white, but the original version was green. The card has been referred to as a "green card" ever since. The current version has green accents to help it live up to its name. 


I received my green card through marriage. What are the special requirements? 

If you received conditional permanent resident status through marriage. then you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence, within the 90-day period preceding your current green card's expiration date. 

The I-751 can take up to a year to process. It is extremely important that it is filed on time to preserve your status. Do not hesitate to contact our office if you need any assistance with the I-751 process. 


How long can I be absent from the U.S. and still maintain my status? 

Every time a green card holder returns from abroad,  the immigration officer can question whether or not the lawful permanent residence status was abandoned. There is no definite rule for what constitutes abandonment, but the USCIS will look to "the totality of circumstances" to see whether the green card holder still intends to live in the U.S. permanently. 

Leaving the U.S. for under six months is usually not a problem. An absence from six to 12 months will trigger heightened scrutiny, and an absence of more than 12 months may trigger a presumption that permanent residence has been abandoned. Our article about abandonment of status discusses this in a little more detail.


Do I need a visa to travel outside the U.S.? 

It depends on your destination country. Some countries, like Canada, do not require green card holders to obtain a visitor visa. When you are making travel plans, check with the country's embassy to find out the requirements on a case-by-case basis.


What does USCIS accept at "proof of intent" to live in the U.S. permanently? 

USCIS will look to "the totality of circumstances." Many green card holders think that simply owning property in the U.S. and visiting once a year will maintain their status. Many of these people may work and own a home in another country. Those people may be seen to have abandoned their LPR status.

Every bit of evidence counts. USCIS will consider family ties to the U.S., property, assets in U.S. accounts, professional affiliations or club memberships, tax returns (filed as resident alien), frequency of travel abroad, ties to another country, and any other evidence of intent to live in the U.S. permanently.


Can I "pre-apply" for entry if I know I will be outside the U.S. for a long time? 

Yes. You can apply for a "re-entry permit" by submitting Form I-131 by mail to the USCIS. If you are planning to be outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, the reentry permit will help you avoid trouble at the border when you come back into the United States. The application for the permit must be carefully documented, and must show a clear date when you plan to return. Please note that you still may be questioned at the airport about your permanent intent to live in the United States, even if you have a reentry permit. Be prepared to explain your plans for living in the United States despite your temporary absence.

Applications for reentry permits take several months to process, and must be filed while you are still in the United States, so plan ahead. You should also realize that extended absences can interrupt the continuous presence needed to apply for citizenship, even if you do get a reentry permit.


How should I file my taxes? 

Generally, green card holders should file taxes as U.S. residents unless directed otherwise by a tax professional. This is not our area of expertise, but we do recommend Clayton Cartwright, should you need to retain assistance.


Does being a green card holder change the way I deal with federal and state agencies (getting a license, etc)? 

Yes, once you get a green card your status changes to "Legal Permanent Resident." Even after a visa or green card is approved, the information may not be immediately uploaded for other state and federal agencies, like Social Security or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Government agencies check the Government agencies check the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program. You can ask the DMV to submit Form G-845, Document Verification Reuqest, directly to the SAVE program to initiate the validation process. Please note that only the public benefit or license-granting agency can submit Form G-845, the individual applicant/beneficiary may not. The validation process can take 10 to 20 days to complete. 

Troublesome cases can be escalated by contacting the SAVE Technical Help Line at 1-800-741-5023 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 



What if my green card is lost, stolen, or needs to be renewed? 

Having copies of your green card will be extremely useful if your card is lost or stolen. USCIS has a very helpful guide for renewing or replacing lost green cards. The necessary form, Form I-90, is available on the USCIS website as well. 


When can I become a U.S. citizen? 

Most green card holders can apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years of continuous presence. It is important to keep track of your international travel dates if you plan on applying for citizenship. On your citizenship application, you will be asked to provide dates and places of travel outside the U.S. since becoming a permanent resident. There is more information about the benefits and requirements of becoming a U.S. citizen here. Many areas have local non-profit or community agencies that assist with the naturalization process as well. 

The period of required lawful permanent residence is reduced to 3 years for the spouse of a US citizen, but the spouse must show that he or she is still married. The requirements are also eased for children and for those who have served in the US armed forces.

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