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Permanent Resident Status

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What is a Permanent Resident Alien?

A permanent resident alien is a person who is lawfully admitted into the U.S. under a valid immigration visa that grants permanent resident status. It may also refer to immigrants who have entered the country under a conditional residency status, and have had their status adjusted to that of permanent resident. 

Permanent resident aliens receive many abilities and privileges. For example, they can usually work legally in the U.S., and can also own property. Also, permanent residence status may lead to the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship.

How is Permanent Residency Obtained?

Permanent residency status requires filing an immigration petition with the United States Immigration Services. Only certain immigrants are eligible to apply to be permanent resident. These include people traveling under the following visa categories:

  • Family Member Visa: Family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents can often apply for permanent residents. This is usually the spouse, parents, and unmarried children (younger than 21 years old);
  • Employment Visa: These often allow for permanent residency applications after some time
  • Fiancé Visa: A fiancé of a citizen or permanent resident is usually granted conditional resident status when entering the U.S. After some time, they can apply to have the conditions removed to obtain permanent status;
  • Asylum and Refugees: Persons filing under this category usually can apply for permanent residency after one year; and
  • Diversity: The diversity visa lottery program allows immigrants to travel to the U.S. and later apply for permanent residency.

Permanent resident status is usually obtained in connection to an alien’s immigration visa. Non-immigrant aliens such as foreign exchange students and temporary overseas workers usually can’t apply for permanent resident status.

Can Permanent Residence Status be Lost?

While permanent residence status grants the holder many privileges and entitlements, it is still a provisional type of status that can be revoked or lost. Generally, permanent resident status can be lost in two ways: abandonment or removal.

  • Abandonment: A permanent resident can lose their status through abandonment, either intentionally or unintentionally. You may be found to have abandoned your status if you:
    • Move to another country with the intent to live there permanently;
    • Remain outside the United States for more than one year without obtaining a:
      • re-entry permit; or
      • returning resident visa.
    • Remain outside the United States for more than two years after you were issued a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa;
    • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside the United States;
    • Declare yourself a nonimmigrant on your tax documents.
  • Removal: A permanent resident can lose their status through removal, also known as deportation. You can be deported if you:
    • Are found to have committed fraud when obtaining your green card; or
    • Are convicted of a crime involving narcotics, murder, or money laundering.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Permanent Resident Alien Status Legal Issues?

Permanent residency can be very advantageous, but it often requires much documentation and sometimes lengthy waiting periods. You should contact an experienced immigration lawyer if you or a loved one needs help with a permanent resident alien application.  Your attorney will be able to assist you with the application, and can help ensure that you aren’t missing any requirements or deadlines.


Photo of page author John Kirby

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 07-25-2018 11:06 PM PDT

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