Permanent Resident Rights
Permanent residency is an interesting immigration status. Under federal law, immigrants who are in the U.S. as permanent residents enjoy many of the same benefits and freedoms as U.S. citizens. Permanent residents are also protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that they have the right to be free from discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, and national origin -- in employment, education, health care, housing, and other settings. The following is a list of basic rights and freedoms of permanent residents.
Rights of Permanent Residents
As a permanent resident, you have the right to:
- Live permanently anywhere in the U.S., so long as you do not commit any actions that would make you removable under immigration law.
- Work lawfully in the United States at any job that suits your qualifications (some jobs are limited to U.S. citizens for security reasons).
- Apply to become a U.S. citizen once you are eligible.
- Request a visa for your husband or wife and unmarried children to live in the U.S.
- Obtain 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. However, you cannot leave the U.S. for an extended period of time or move to another country to live there permanently. Those wishing to remain abroad for six months or longer should file appropriate documents with the Immigration Service establishing that they do not intend to abandon their permanent resident status. Those with criminal convictions should determine whether they might create a bar to admission prior to travel. Travel outside of the United States should also be avoided if your residency is close to expiration or you are currently awaiting renewal of your permanent residency.
- Attend public schools and colleges.
- Join certain branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Purchase or own a firearm, so long as there are no state or local laws saying you can't.
- Vote in local (but not federal) elections where U.S. Citizenship is not required. There are a few jurisdictions where permanent residents may vote in local elections. You can obtain information regarding voting qualifications in local elections from your local voting authority.
- Be protected by all laws of the U.S., your state of residence, and local jurisdictions.
A permanent resident should be cautious about the exercise of some of these rights. A firearms-related conviction, voting in a federal election, leaving the United States under certain circumstances, and other actions could result in ineligibility for citizenship and, in some cases, even result in the revocation of permanent resident status.
Get a Free Initial Legal Assessment
Before acting on your rights as a permanent resident you may want to consult a legal professional. A lawyer can warn you of unexpected risks, or suggest actions that can help protect and preserve your status. Contact a local attorney for a free initial legal assessment to discuss your immigration concerns and learn how they can help.