Top Three Responsibilities of a U.S. Green Card Holder

Top Three Responsibilitie…

So, you got yourself a green card, now what?

Lawful permanent resident status (LPR), commonly known as a “Green Card” holder, is the next best thing to U.S. Citizenship. But it's not U.S. Citizenship. Maybe you will pursue naturalization in the future, maybe you won’t, but just because you have a green card doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in the U.S or even outside of its territory. The coveted green card comes with a list of responsibilities. Let’s get into our top three things many green card holders frequently overlook or misunderstand about lawful permanent residence.

1. A Green Card is Not a Temporary Visitor Visa

A green card does not give anyone the right to live outside the U.S. permanently. You cannot use the green card to pop in and out of the U.S. every once in a while, to visit family, friends, vacation, etcetera. That's not its purpose.

The purpose of a green card is for the holder to live in the U.S. on a permanent basis, and that’s what you are promising to do when you are issued lawful permanent resident status. You are not promising to enter the U.S. once every year and live outside the country full-time.

There is a longstanding myth that you can have a green card and live outside the country as long as you come back into the U.S. for even one day, every year, to break the 12 months of consecutive time outside the country. False, false, false. Just so we’re clear, it's false!

It does not matter where you heard it, or who told you, or that you have always been doing it, or that all of your friends have been doing it too. You cannot live outside the United States without violating the terms of your lawful permanent resident status. Unless a green card holder has an approved re-entry permit, they cannot, and must not, live outside the U.S. Absent an approved re-entry permit, if you are not physically in the United States for the majority of each and every year, you are putting your lawful permanent resident status in jeopardy, and you will, at some point, get caught, forcing you to choose between giving up your green card or fighting to keep it in Court. In Court, you will have to successfully prove that you have not abandoned your lawful permanent resident status. If you’re not physically living in the U.S. without a justifiable reason why, proving you have not abandoned your residence is going to be a tall order.

2. You can Lose Your Green Card for Committing “Minor” Crimes

Okay, here’s another myth – Minor crimes are not a problem!

False. You should know that there is no such thing as a “minor” crime for immigration purposes. It does not matter if it’s just a misdemeanor. Many misdemeanors can make a person deportable. Immigration attorneys hear clients say “it’s just a misdemeanor” all the time to explain away past arrests and convictions like they are insignificant, and nothing the lawyer should concern themselves about.

Every crime, whether you’re convicted of it or not; whether you were only arrested but never charged; and even ones that you were never arrested for at all, are all potential pitfalls that must be analyzed by your immigration attorney to determine if it has put your green card at risk. For immigration purposes, you do not need to be convicted of a crime to be deportable. Admitting you committed certain crimes can make you removable from the U.S. Until you become a U.S. Citizen, you’re subject to losing your green card for all sorts of “minor” crimes.

3. Tax filings Include Worldwide Income

The author of this article is not a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) nor does he play one in real life. You should speak with a CPA if you have earned income outside the U.S and have not been declaring that income on your federal tax return. Generally, a green card holder must declare all sources of income when filing their tax return regardless of whether they earned that income in the States or abroad. Do not make the mistake in thinking that just because you did not earn the income in the United States and never transferred earnings into the U.S, that you do not need to declare it on your taxes. Speak with a CPA.

Sunil C. Patel is an experienced immigration attorney and himself a first-generation immigrant. Formerly a managing attorney with a multinational immigration and corporate law firm, he now focuses his practice exclusively in immigration law at his own law firm, Sunil C. Patel Immigration Law, LLC. To schedule a consultation, please call (770) 756-6056 or visit You can also schedule an appointment by selecting an available time on his calendar.