You Just Got Your Green Card! Now What?
Updated: Feb 6
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
So you’ve just become a green card holder. Congratulations!
Becoming a U.S. legal permanent resident (a green card holder) is a great relief for most immigrants, and an accomplishment that some wait years, or even decades to achieve.
Now that you’re a green card holder, there are new obligations, as well as new benefits that you get when you become a green card holder.
As an immigration lawyer, here is the list of eight things I want all my green card clients and all new green card holders to know. Many immigrants know most of the items on this list, but very few immigrants know all of them.
The aim of this article is to show you those one or two items you were not aware of that could be a game-changer for you as an immigrant in the United States so that you can
Protect your green card;
Progress towards U.S. citizenship as quickly as possible, if that’s your goal.
Bring your foreign family to the United States as quickly as possible.
Let’s get to it.
#1 Worldwide Tax Reporting Obligation
Uncle Sam wants to know about income earned abroad by green card holders.
The United States has the dubious distinction of being one of the very few countries in the world that taxes a person based on citizenship. This is critical for new green card holders because the IRS considers green card holders “U.S. persons” for the purposes of worldwide income reporting.
This means once someone becomes a U.S. green card holder, they have to report their worldwide income. Plenty of new green card holders make the mistake of thinking only income earned in the United States has to be reported to the IRS and risk getting into tax trouble.
If you have income, assets or income outside of the United States, make sure to consult a qualified tax professional.
#2 Address Change Obligation (AR-11)
Uncle Sam also wants to know where U.s. green card holders are living.
Simply stated, all green card holders in the United States are required by law to inform USCIS of their change of address within 10 days. Contrary to common misconception, this also does apply when a green card holder even doesn’t have an immigration application pending with USCIS.
Luckily, reporting the change of address is a very easy affair. Click here to find out the three ways you can inform USCIS of an address change.
#3 You Can Still Be DEPORTED (although it is harder now)
A lot of new immigrants think that once they become a green card holder, they can no longer be deported.
Contrary to popular belief, as a green card holder, you can STILL be deported if you commit certain criminal or immigration violations.
The fact of being a green card holder does make it harder for the government to deport you. That’s because according to 8 CFR § 1240.8(a), the government has the burden of proof of proving you are “removable” i.e. that they have the right to deport you. But don’t be mistaken - this does not mean that you cannot be deported as a green card holder.
#4 Avoid Leaving the U.S. For Six Months or Longer
To make sure you don’t risk your green card, you want to avoid leaving the United States for more than six months at a time. That’s because USCIS considers a green card holder’s continuous absence of more than six months to possibly be an abandonment of legal permanent residence.
This can cause a problem both for keeping your permanent residency as well as qualifying for naturalization once you’ve been a permanent resident for the requisite period of time.
#5 Selective Service Registration Obligation
Males between the ages of 18 and 25 who are U.S. citizens or residents in the United States must register with the selective service system.
Here, the term “residents” includes legal permanent residents (such as new green card holders), as well as undocumented individuals.
Failing to register for selective service can result in problems, including possibly being denied for naturalization in the future. You can check this chart to see exactly who is required to register.
#6 You Can Petition for Spouse & Unmarried Children
You can now petition for your 1) spouse and 2) unmarried children to get legal permanent residency, although when they’ll have a visa available to them depends on the movements of the visa bulletin.
Also, once you become naturalized as a U.S. citizen, some of those petitions for foreign relatives may have the waiting time reduced, depending again, on the visa bulletin.
Note: once you become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you’ll also be able to petition for your 1) married children, 2) siblings, 3) parents, and 4) foreign fiancé. Something to look forward to!
#7 You Can Now Join the U.S. military
If you have an interest in serving in the U.S. military, you’re now eligible to apply for enlistment.
Previously, the U.S. military would accept some nonimmigrants through their Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (“MAVNI”) program.
Unfortunately MAVNI has been suspended in 2016 but the good news is that if you’ve recently become a U.S. green card holder, you’re now eligible to join the U.S. armed forces.
#8 You can Start to Prepare for Naturalization
Most new green card holders have to wait for three or five years until they are eligible to apply for naturalization. While you’re waiting, here are two things you can do to prepare.
Develop your ties to the country. Open bank accounts, get your names on utility bills, join local clubs or organizations, etc. These types of ties can help you avoid a challenge to your continuous residency down the line. Click here to read more about the importance of this step.
Keep a log of your international travel, especially if you travel overland often or travel often in general. When you apply for naturalization, you’ll have to give a list of your travel dates, locations and duration for the last several years to prove you have continuous residence and sufficient physical presence in the United States.
Keeping a travel log can help immensely with this.
Don’t Hesitate to Consult with a Professional
It's said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If you want to plan out the next immigration and citizenship steps for yourself and your family, you don’t have to guess.
Book a consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer who can answer your questions, including those you didn’t know you had.
The information in this page could become outdated. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.
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