What is U.S. Permanent Residency (also known as a Green Card)?
U.S. permanent residency is an immigration status that gives immigrants the right to permanently live and work in the United States. Foreign immigrants who have obtained lawful permanent residency are given a permanent resident card, colloquially known as a Green Card.
EB5 visa applicants can become permanent residents after the USCIS approves their I-526 application. However, rather than gain permanent resident status, EB5 visa holders become conditional 2-year permanent residents. This enables immigrants to come to the United States to oversee their EB5 investment for a two-year period.
At the conclusion of this period, the investor can then apply for the removal of the conditional restrictions, or full permanent residency, by filing an I-829 petition. Once this petition is accepted, the investor, his or her spouse and their unmarried children under the age of 21 can permanently live and work in the United States. After five years, they are also given the option to apply for full U.S. citizenship with all pertinent rights, benefits and responsibilities.
Rights and Benefits of Permanent Residents
Permanent residents of the United States, also known as green card holders, are afforded many rights and benefits. One such right is the right to live and/or work permanently anywhere they desire within the United States. Permanent residents are also fully protected (and thus bound) by all U.S. federal, state and local laws.
Permanent residents also have access to one of the world’s best higher-education systems and may be able to avoid international tuition and fees at U.S.-based colleges and universities. By living in the United States, a permanent resident also has access to world-class medical care. If they desire, permanent residents are permitted to travel outside of the United States. Last but not least, after five years, permanent residents have the right, at their option, to become U.S. citizens.
Summary of Permanent Residency Rights
- Ability to live and work anywhere within the United States.
- Full protection of U.S. federal, state and local laws.
- Access to world-class higher education system.
- Access to world-class medical care.
- Ability to travel outside of the United States.
- Ability to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Responsibilities of Permanent Residents
In addition to being afforded expanded rights and benefits, permanent residents also have numerous responsibilities. Just as a U.S. citizen would, they must pay all applicable taxes. This means that permanent residents must annually file federal income tax returns with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The taxation rate is based on the permanent resident’s gross worldwide income.
Green Card holders must also file state and/or local tax returns, as applicable, and pay appropriate taxes. Immigrants from countries that have a tax treaty with the United States may, however, receive a credit for their payment of foreign taxes. Green Card holders have the right to travel abroad but, in order not to disrupt the continuity of their permanent residency status, are expected to limit foreign trips to less than six months.
Male permanent residents between the ages of 18 and 25, like their U.S. counterparts, must register with the U.S. Selective Service. By registering with the Selective Service, these young men become eligible to be drafted into the U.S. military in the event that the United States goes to war. Note that registering for the Selective Service does not compel service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Permanent residents are also expected to be of good moral character, i.e. without serious criminal issues in the past, and to fulfil their obligations under the law.
Summary of Permanent Residency Responsibilities:
- Pay applicable federal, state and local taxes.
- Fulfil physical presence requirements.
- Register with Selective Service (males only, aged 18 to 25).
- Demonstrate good moral character.
Permanent Residency vs. U.S. Citizenship
Being a U.S. citizen and having permanent residency status are not the same. Permanent residents through EB5 or other methods, for example, are not permitted to hold a U.S. passport but rather they remain a national of their home country of citizenship. U.S. permanent residents are also not permitted to vote in U.S. elections or (with limited exception) to run for public office.
A U.S. citizen may also have an easier time bringing family members to the United States. Moreover, U.S. citizens generally have greater access to federal jobs. U.S. citizens are also eligible for more federal assistance and benefits programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. While permanent residents may also be eligible for Medicare and Social Security, that is only if they have met the contribution threshold of ten years (or 40 quarters). Unlike U.S. citizens, permanent residents are subject to physical residence requirements. For instance, permanent residents may jeopardize their residency status if they remain outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time (generally over six months).
Under certain circumstances, permanent residents may be required to obtain a reentry permit to come back into the United States, for example, if they remain abroad for an extended period of time, if they move to another country with the intention of permanently residing there or if they don’t file federal income tax returns while living overseas. In order to enjoy full citizenship rights, after five years, a permanent resident may file for U.S. citizenship through the USCIS.
|Permanent Resident||U.S. Citizen|
|Can live & work anywhere in the U.S.?||Yes||Yes|
|Protected by applicable U.S. laws?||Yes||Yes|
|Access to higher education system?||Yes||Yes|
|Access to first class medical care?||Yes||Yes|
|Permitted to travel outside of U.S?||Yes||Yes|
|Can obtain a US passport?||No||Yes|
|Can run for most elected offices||No||Yes|
|Access to federal benefits?||Yes, conditionally||Yes|
|Must adhere to residency requirements?||Yes||No|