Permanent Resident Status in the USA


Becoming a permanent resident of the USA through getting a Green Card has plenty of benefits. But, it also comes with responsibilities, particularly ones related to following US law.

Along with standard US laws, there are various ones applicable to lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as Green Card Holders. To remain a permanent resident of the USA, you must follow these. Let’s cover the biggest ones, so you know what to look for.

Crimes Affecting Permanent Resident Status

As you may already know, US laws are divided into federal and state. Federal laws apply nationwide, whereas state laws are applicable in that one state. This means there are federal and state crimes.

Permanent Resident Status

A permanent resident in the USA can be deported for committing both federal and state crimes, although slightly more leeway may be offered for lesser state crimes.

Similarly, American law uses the term “misdemeanor” to refer to some crimes. All this means is that the maximum prison sentence is less than one year. A permanent resident can still be deported for committing one of these crimes.

There’s quite a long list of crimes that can lead to deportation for non-citizens. They’re listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act, but the highlights include:

Aggravated felonies (murder, assault, sex crimes, etc.)
Drug offenses (other than minor possession)
Firearms offenses (buying and selling illegal weapons)
Treason or sedition
Domestic violence

Finally, there’s the category of “crimes involving moral turpitude”. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this means; there isn’t a clear definition. Generally, they’re considered crimes that shock the public, which covers pretty much everything listed above.

The biggest thing for a permanent resident in the USA is that a crime of moral turpitude can be decided at the discretion of a judge. As such, it doesn’t need to appear on the list of misdemeanors or felonies. The easiest way to avoid a crime of moral turpitude is to just not break the law.

Of course, drug possession is becoming an increasingly difficult one to understand because more and more US states are legalizing marijuana possession and use.

Again, the easiest thing to do might be to just avoid it altogether, or to speak to an immigration attorney in your state, so you can confirm the specific rules. Also, remember that this is the only drug undergoing legalization, so stay away from everything else!

Fraud for a Permanent Resident Status in the USA

Fraud can be a big issue for LPRs in America. By this, we don’t mean “normal” fraud such as tax evasion, we mean types of fraud specifically relating to being a Green Card holder.

For example, marriage fraud is a surprisingly common crime committed by LPRs. The concept is simple: a US citizen marries an immigrant so they have faster access to a Green Card. If the marriage is annulled or breaks down within 2 years, USCIS and the Feds might be interested.

Additionally, if an LPR fails to report a change of address to immigration authorities within ten days of moving, this is also considered a violation and could cause you to face deportation and lose your Permanent Resident Status. 

Although it may appear to be a small matter, the immigration authorities take failing to report a new address very seriously since it symbolizes an attempt to hide your whereabouts.  As part of the immigration law, an LPR’s Green Card must be kept up to date at all times.

Finally, there’s inadmissibility, which is relevant during your application to become a permanent resident of the USA. This could be either during work- or family-related applications or during adjustment of status.

Inadmissibility basically means a reason your application would fail. It could be committing certain crimes, being considered a security threat, or entering the country while infected with certain transmissible diseases.

It relates to fraud because LPRs will likely be deported if USCIS finds out they’ve lied during their application. For example, if you were involved in money laundering and didn’t disclose your conviction during your application, you’ll likely be deported.

So, this all comes down to submitting an accurate and lawful application. This isn’t particularly difficult if you have nothing to hide, although mistakes can be made. To ensure you avoid these, consider applying to become a permanent resident through an immigration attorney.

Traveling Outside of the United States

If you’re a permanent resident of the USA, you’re legally allowed to leave the country. Granted, you must do so on your native country’s passport, but nothing is stopping you from taking vacations or extended trips.

But, the American government might start asking questions if you’re not considered to be “continuously physically present” in the country. In short, this means spending most of your time there.

Once you are awarded Green Card status it is generally a good idea to avoid staying in other countries for an extended period, such as more than one year. While this might sound concerning, USCIS is fairly lenient if you have a valid reason for being out of the country.

Although Green Card law does not designate how long you can remain outside the US, if there is a pattern of extended stays outside of the US, USCIS will start looking into the matter.  If it is determined that you are intending to move to another country, your Green Card status will be revoked.

If for any reason you must be outside of the United States for more than one year due to personal reasons, the best way to handle it is to complete a form for a re-entry permit in advance of leaving the country. This indicates to US immigration services that your intentions are to return to the US and you do not plan to relocate to another country.

Where possible, try to restrict your stays outside the US to no longer than six months.  Also, if you become ill while outside the US, and this results in an extended stay, make sure you are prepared with verification of the illness when you return to the US.

Remaining a Permanent Resident of the USA

Generally speaking, it’s not difficult to remain a permanent resident of the USA. Providing you follow the law, everything should go fairly smoothly. It is also important to avoid any violations of the law if you plan on eventually becoming a permanent US citizen, as doing so could drastically impact your chances.

One of the main considerations for citizenship status is “good moral character”. Like the crimes of moral turpitude, this is quite a broad idea, but considers crimes and behavior. So, it’s best to live a good moral life as a permanent resident of the USA if you then want to become a full citizen.

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