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  • By: Serving Immigrants
  • Published: March 2, 2021
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Although people may think that the terms permanent resident and citizen can be used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Understanding the differences and how they apply to you, is the first step to knowing your rights and responsibilities. For example, under certain circumstances, you can be deported even if you are a permanent resident. To protect yourself, understand these terms and the meaning of each.

A Lawful Permanent Resident

This is someone who has been granted the right to live in the United States indefinitely—meaning there is no timeline when it will expire. To be clear, that doesn’t mean it cannot be revoked, but we will go over that in a moment.

These people have a Permanent Resident Card, commonly referred to as a “green card.” This is legal identification that displays your photo and status.

When you are a permanent resident, you are still a citizen in another country. You cannot receive a passport from the United States, but your green card will allow you to return to the United States when you are traveling.

Before we go over what rights you possess because of your status as a legal permanent resident, you are likely wondering which rights extend to the members of your family. 

Your relatives will be known as preference relatives. There are four different categories, and the first, second, and fourth categories pertain to relatives who are 21 years of age or older. Please note that only the second preference pertains to relatives of permanent residents.

  • 1st Preference or F1: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • 2nd Preference or F2A: Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents.
  • 2nd Preference or F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents.
  • 3rd Preference or F3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • 4th Preference or F4: Brothers and sister of U.S. residents.

How To Lose Your Status As A Permanent Resident

Despite holding a green card and being a lawful permanent resident, you can still be subject to deportation. The good news, however, is that if you adhere to the rules surrounding your status, you will have the chance to apply for citizenship.

It is possible to abandon your status. This is when you spend an extended period of time outside the United States. If you plan on spending time outside of this country—especially if you plan on being gone for six months to a year—get a reentry permit before leaving. Unfortunately, the application process can take several months, so apply (at a minimum) 60 days before you plan on leaving.

You do not have the right to vote as a lawful permanent resident. Furthermore, engaging in criminal acts or not updating U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) of your address could also lead to your status being revoked.

U.S. Citizenship

Being a lawful permanent resident can lead to becoming a U.S. citizen. Obey the laws, update USCIS of where you are living, and you will be eligible to apply for citizenship. You will have to pass an exam regarding the history of the United States and our government. This requires the ability to read and write in English.

Most people are lawful permanent residents for five years before they can apply to become citizens.

Cuprys & Associates

The journey to becoming a U.S. citizen is a long process. We understand how important it is for you to have a stable and permanent home in this country. This difficult journey does not have to be done alone. At Cuprys & Associates, we are dedicated professionals who are committed to helping you with your legal issues regarding immigration. Contact us online or call us at 305-907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.

Image of Attorney Magdalena Cuprys, Esq with 4.7 start reviews

Attorney Magdalena Cuprys is a seasoned immigration lawyer based in Orlando and Coral Gables, Florida. With three languages under her belt and years of legal experience working with immigrants of all kinds, she brings considerable experience and insight to the field and works hard to explain immigration concepts, empower future citizens, and keep current and prospective immigrants up to date on US immigration law.

Connect with her firm, Serving Immigrants, to stay updated on the latest developments in United States immigration law and gain valuable insights needed to navigate the challenging legal landscape of immigration in Florida. 

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