Lawful permanent resident explained

lawful permanent-resident explained

What is a lawful permanent resident (LPR)?

A lawful permanent resident (LPR), also known as a Green Card holder, is a foreign-born national who has been granted the right to live in the United States indefinitely unless they lose or abandon LPR status – please see further explanation below. LPRs continue to hold citizenship of another country.


Benefiting from LPR Status

If and when you are approved, the US government will issue you a “permanent resident card,” known informally as a green card. You may use your green card to prove employment eligibility and apply for a social security card.

Permanent residence includes the right to work in the U.S. for most employers or yourself. You can potentially keep your status indefinitely. You can also sponsor other family members to come to the US.


Obtaining LPR Status

Obtaining lawful permanent resident (LPR) status involves a multi-step process. The specific requirements may vary depending on your circumstances. In general, you need to accurately complete the correct immigration forms, attend an interview, and undergo thorough background checks. The process can be complex, and we recommend you get started here or schedule a consultation with me to ensure you meet all the requirements.


Maintaining or Losing LPR Status

As the name suggests, the intent of LPR status is meant to continue for the foreseeable future. Maintaining your LPR status is crucial. Failure to do so may result in losing LPR status. It is important to avoid actions that might be grounds for deportation or “abandonment” of your status.

Here are some of the most common ways people lose LPR status:


1. Leaving the US

In general, spending more than 12 months outside the US without obtaining a reentry permit before departure can result in losing LPR status. Even shorter absences can trigger the loss of status. If, upon reentry, a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer determines that you actually live outside the United States rather than within the US, they can put you in removal proceedings. Failing to file income taxes with the IRS can also result in the abandonment of your lawful permanent resident status.

Many people unintentionally abandon their green card status each year when they move back to their home country. They may need to take care of a sick family member, attend school, or care for their own medical needs. Proper preparation and planning can avoid this common way of losing LPR.

Please note the US government provides an exception for LPRs residing in Mexico or Canada in commuter LPR status. People with commuter LPR status are green card holders who work in the U.S. but live in Canada or Mexico.

If you obtained LPR status but have been outside the US for one year or more, you may be able to obtain a returning resident visa (SB-1), which allows you to resume your LPR status and enter the US as a lawful permanent resident. To qualify, you have to show you remained outside the US due to circumstances out of your control. If you know ahead of time that your trip outside the US will be one year or more (but less than two years), you may want to consider applying for a re-entry permit. We can assist you with obtaining a re-entry permit. Click here to get started.


2. Voluntarily Surrendering Green Card

For various reasons, some people choose to voluntarily abandon their status by completing form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Generally, abandoning your LPR status releases your obligation to pay US income taxes. Before abandoning your status, you should consult with a tax professional to discuss your tax situation. An immigration lawyer, like myself, can assist you with properly abandoning your status.


3. Misrepresenting Facts

If the government becomes aware you made a material misrepresentation or lied during the lawful permanent resident application process, your lawful permanent resident status can be rescinded, and you could be placed in removal proceedings. Any false exchange of information with immigration officials may be considered fraudulent. Providing certain incorrect information on your application, submitting false evidence, or lying during an interview can result in losing your status.

Sometimes, people try to use marriage to try to get around immigration laws, but if they are discovered, it can lead to deportation.


4. Committing a crime

Not all criminal convictions will cause a person to lose LPR status. Certain criminal offenses are more likely to put a permanent resident in removal proceedings. Determining whether a certain violation of law or conviction will result in removal can be complicated and depends on various factors. As an experienced immigration attorney, I can analyze your specific situation and provide an opinion.

Also, renewing a green card after an arrest can be a problem, depending on the circumstances. Although criminal law lawyers should advise you about the immigration consequences of potential convictions, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who is probably more experienced in looking at a conviction from an immigration law perspective. Even if you are assured that your record will be erased or deleted, immigration laws still require it to be disclosed on certain immigration applications. In cases like this, it would be good to speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

If immigration officials believe that a permanent resident is deportable, the individual generally will not be removed immediately. In most cases, the green card holder will have a right to defend themselves in immigration court. However, an individual with an outstanding order of removal could be deported more quickly.

Contact me to discuss your specific case.


MyImmigration is your Partner on the Path to US Citizenship

Lawful Permanent Residency is a significant milestone on the path to US citizenship. For many LPRs, the ultimate goal is to become a US citizen. While not mandatory, becoming a citizen provides additional benefits. LPRs who meet specific requirements can apply for US citizenship (naturalization) after a certain period. Please see our naturalization blog for more details about this.

This blog serves as a general overview and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or need personalized legal guidance, schedule a consultation with me. For the most up-to-date immigration information, you may want to visit US Citizenship and Immigration Services at or the State Department at