Lately, my clients who have recently been granted Lawful Permanent Resident status, have been asking questions about what it means to be a US Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). As a result, I wanted to shed light on what being an LPR means, and, more importantly, what is does not mean. Here are my top five rights and responsibilities of being an LPR.
LPR status can be revoked and certain criminal convictions may cause you to be deported.
That’s right. Your status is permanent only in the sense that you don’t have to apply for it from scratch repeatedly. You can be deported if you make certain mistakes or convicted of certain criminal offenses. The term “conviction” is very broadly interpreted. Any time you say you are “guilty” in criminal case against you that is a conviction. It does not matter if your conviction will “go away” if you complete certain tasks; under immigration law by saying you’re guilty means you are convicted. (In Colorado, this type of plea agreement is called a “deferred judgment and sentence.”) If you are facing criminal charges, you owe it to yourself to find out exactly what the immigration consequences can be for pleading guilty. Talk with a licensed, immigration attorney who can explain these consequences to you and your criminal defense attorney.
Certain types of crimes – domestic violence, drugs (yes, including marijuana), driving under the influence/DUI, theft or fraud offenses, crimes involving violence (murder, assault), weapons offenses – are much more likely to trigger Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to put you in proceedings to deport you. Even if ICE doesn’t proactively identify you for removal, if you leave the US then try to re-enter, you will be prohibited from doing so because of your criminal history.
Never, ever say you are a US citizen for any reason unless you actually are a US citizen.
If you say you are a US citizen, under any circumstance, you could lose your LPR status. Doing this is called making a “false claim of citizenship” and it is taken very, very seriously by the US government. So much so that making such false claims can prevent you from becoming a US citizen and could cause you to be deported. Usually, LPRs make this mistake by:
- Registering to vote or actually voting in any election;
- Using a US citizen’s personal identifying documents – even if that person gave you permission; or,
- Indicating you are a citizen on employment documents (such as the I-9, Employment Verification Form).
Waivers, created by statute, allow an immigrant to ask forgiveness for doing something contrary to immigration law. However, there is no waiver available for making a false claim of US citizenship. We cannot stress enough how damaging this can be.
Do not to abandon your residency status.
It was a long and often hard-fought battle to get your LPR status. Take care not to lose or abandon it by traveling outside the US for too long. What’s “too long”? Well, the general rule of thumb is more than 180 days in any one calendar year. By not living and working in the US for at least 180 days per calendar year, the DHS will question whether you really want to be an LPR. Another way to lose your LPR status is by marking yourself as a “non-immigrant” on your tax returns. And, lastly, your setting up long-term residence in another country and leaving your residence in the US is a problem. This is different than maintaining two residences – one in the US and one abroad – so if you have questions or concerns about this, please contact a licensed, immigration attorney to discuss it further.
Lawful Permanent Residence isn’t necessarily permanent.
LPR cards are issued for two or ten years. If you have an LPR card that’s valid for two years, you have conditional residence. This means that, as you get close to the expiration date on your LPR card, you must request DHS to lift or remove that condition. That condition can be placed for a variety of reasons. One very common example is that your spouse petitioned for you and you were married for less than two years. Another example is that you invested a significant amount of money in the US and you have to demonstrate you met the terms of that investment. It is important you demonstrate that you’ve met the condition(s) on your LPR status, so be sure you start that process prior to the expiration date on your LPR card. When you’ve demonstrated you’ve met the condition, you’ll be given an LPR card that’s valid for ten years.
At the same time, once you are an LPR, you will remain an LPR unless and until DHS/ICE takes that away from you. We’ve seen this come up when an employer doesn’t maintain its responsibilities with I-9, Employment Verification. Then, under the pressure of an ICE I-9 audit, an employer demands an employee provide an unexpired LPR card makes that a requirement of continued employment. Simply put, employers cannot terminate you just because your LPR card is expired. Remember, unless DHS/ICE successfully takes your LPR status away, you are still considered an LPR even if the expiration date on your LPR card has passed. Despite this, as an LPR, it is your responsibility to maintain a valid, unexpired LPR card and to provide your employer up-to-date information too.
Apply for US Citizenship as soon as you are eligible.
You may be eligible to apply for US citizenship depending on how long you have been an LPR. For example, if you’re currently married to a US citizen, you can apply for US citizenship after three years of being a resident. If not, then you can apply after being a resident for five years. When clients ask why they should bother with becoming a US citizen my response is simple: membership has its privileges. There are a lot of privileges you gain when you are a US citizen that do not exist for LPRs. Some example include that you cannot be deported, you can vote, you can petition for more family members (and generally those petitions are processed faster than others), you are taxed at a lower rate, and you get to serve on jury duty. Alright, maybe jury duty isn’t on your list of reasons for becoming a US citizen, but our court system is the envy of many countries around the world and, for it to work, everyone must be willing to participate when called. (I’ll stop there because I could write a whole other article just on that topic!)
Bonus Tip! 6. Notify DHS of every change of your address.
Unless and until you are a naturalized US citizen, you must notify the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of any change in your address. DHS may need to send you important information. If you don’t receive the information because you moved and you didn’t notify DHS, that’s your problem, not theirs. You must report the change within 10 days of your move. Thankfully, this can be done quickly and easily online now. If you don’t have a computer in your home, or a smart phone, please visit your local library. While you’re at it, don’t forget to notify your attorney of your change of address too.
US Immigration law is complex and ever-changing. Given this year’s presidential race, there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated. Such misinformation is generally the result of a lack of understanding of the laws’ intricacies. By sharing with you my top five rights and responsibilities for lawful permanent residents, I hope this has clarified some common misconceptions in immigration law. If you have any questions or concerns about your situation, please contact us to set up a time for a consult.