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Green Card Holder's Rights

U.S. Permanent Residents Can Work and Travel Freely Throughout the Country

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A Green Card Holder’s Rights

As a permanent resident in the United States, you have the legal right to:

  • Live the rest of your life in the country, provided you do not commit any offenses that would make you removable under U.S. immigration law. In short, as long as you follow the law, your residency is guaranteed.
  • Work in the United States in any legal pursuit that you choose. However, some jobs (generally, government positions in defense and homeland security) are restricted to U.S. citizens only for security reasons. Also, you cannot run for elected office, so you won’t be able to earn a living in public service.
  • Travel freely around the United States. You can leave and then reenter the country as you please. However, there are some restrictions on prolonged stays outside the country.
  • Claim protection under all laws of the United States, your state of residence and your local jurisdictions. In general, all the safeguards and legal avenues available to U.S. citizens are also available to permanent residents, and this is true anywhere in the country.
  • Request visas for your husband or wife and unmarried children to live in the United States.
  • Own property or buy firearms, as long as there are no state or local ordinance prohibiting it.
  • Attend public school and college, or join branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Apply for a driver’s license.
  • Get Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and Medicare benefits if you are able.
  • A Green Card Holder’s Responsibilities

    As a permanent resident of the United States, you are:

  • Required to obey all laws of the United States, including those in the states, counties, municipalities, cities and towns.
  • Required to file an income tax return each year and report your income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and other relevant tax authorities, including state and local taxing agencies.
  • Expected to support the democratic form of government in the United States and not attempt to change that government through illegal means. Of course, permanent residents must not engage in acts treason or sedition.
  • Required, if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25, to register with the Selective Service for the possibility of military service.
  • Carry proof of your permanent resident status with you.
  • Maintain your immigration status and change your address online or provide it in writing to the Department of Homeland Security within 10 days each time you move.
  • Health Insurance May Also Be Required

    In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate requiring residents to have health insurance.

    Though there are more details to work out and more legal challenges ahead, the law requires permanent residents to participate and buy insurance beginning in 2014. Green card holders will be able to buy insurance through the exchanges that the states are assigned to set up.

    Legal immigrants whose income falls below federal poverty levels will be eligible to receive government subsidies to help them pay for the coverage. Most green card holders will not be allowed to enroll in Medicaid until they have lived in the United States for at least five years.

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