What Is A Lawful Permanent Resident In The USA?

Last Updated on February 13, 2022

I recently attended a local ‘Immigration Simulation’ event where everyone was given a ‘character’ with a back story as to why they are trying to get into America. They then had to live out the frustrations of the USA immigration process, and believe me it was just as frustrating as my experience. We were told that the process can take 16 YEARS to go through the whole process and become a citizen.

What is a Lawful Permanent Resident?

The quickest is 5 years, this is the track that I was on (or 3 if you’ve been married to an American for 2 years…such as if you were living in another country together). So how comes I’m actually living in the USA if I haven’t finished the process? I’m only 2 years in and considered a Lawful Permanent Resident, but what does this mean? I’ll tell you.

It’s a strange situation being a Lawful Permanent Resident.  It feels a little like being in a limbo land.  The UK know I have left the country and live overseas, but the USA doesn’t fully accept me as a citizen and there are restrictions to me living here.

This makes things tricky.  Because I’m in ‘Limbo’, when it comes to the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t want to say it. I don’t feel I HAVE to say it, the American government still view me as British and I hope those around me realise that. Just because I live here they may not know that there are conditions to my Permanent Residency.

Permanent Resident vs Citizen

I don’t necessarily ever have to go through citizenship and become a citizen, I could stay as a Permanent Resident forever but it does mean that I’ll have to keep on top of my paperwork and never let it expire.  Next year, on my 2nd anniversary of entering the USA, I have to pay (a lot) to remove the conditions on my Green Card which then makes it valid for a further 8 years (10 years in total).  I basically have to prove that I’m still married to and living with the person that applied for my CR1 Spousal Visa.

What it means to be a Permanent Lawful Resident in the USA

I-751 Applying To Remove Conditions On A Green Card

After that first removal and the 10th year, it essentially works the same as a passport.  I have to pay (a lot) every 10 years to keep the card up to date.  With citizenship, once you have it, there is no renewal fee but it does cost an awful lot to go through that process and it means revising for a test that apparently the majority of American born people would fail. Fun fun fun!

So what are the benefits of Citizenship compared to being a Permanent Resident.

Being able to leave (and come back)

Sounds ironic hey. Trying to become a Citizen, just to be able to leave? Land of the free. Not for me. As a Permanent Resident, if I am out of the country for more than 365 days in a row, they can take away my rights to live here. Once you are a Citizen you then have a right to live here that can’t be taken away.

It makes me sad knowing that if ever I wanted to take a gap year/sabbatical/career break and spend a year overseas, I can’t do it. Americans can, Brits living in the UK can, but a Brit living overseas? Nope. The traveller has travel restrictions and just knowing I’m trapped feels horrible.

In my eyes, I’m also thinking about the future, what if something happens and I want to go home for an extended amount of time? I want to stay British but I also want to be able to leave. As it stands at the moment, getting Citizenship would mean that I could have dual nationality. The USA would only see me as American but the UK would still let me have the right to hold my British passport. If I had to give up being British, I wouldn’t do it. Some countries DO make you give up your former passport and renounce all other citizenships.

Only Citizens Can Vote

Again, I live here, potentially forever, yet as a Permanent Resident I have no say at all when it comes to choosing the people that have the power to affect my day to day life.  Believe it or not, I can still vote in the UK and can do up to 15 years of living overseas.

Visas For Family Members?

Americans stand fiercely by their ‘Rights’.  As a Lawful Permanent Resident, I don’t have the same rights.  The biggest one that could possibly affect me is that I can’t sponsor any of my family members to join me in the States. It’s often thought that if an immigrant comes to a country they’ll then bring over all their family members.

Lets put this into perspective. I’m still in my 20’s. If I want to bring my Sister here, I’d be lucky if she got here before I reached my mid 40’s. I’d have to wait until I was able to complete citizenship and then the wait list for a Sibling visa is over 13 YEARS.  Parents are faster but again you’d need to be a citizen to be able to start the process.

I can’t apply for Federal Government jobs as a Permanent Resident, for example jobs at the Department of Homeland Security.  I also can’t be elected in Federal or State elections and not that I would want to be, but I would NEVER have the right to be President, even if I became a citizen.

Are you surprised by how tough and long the process is?

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13 thoughts on “What Is A Lawful Permanent Resident In The USA?

  1. Totally agree that the US immigration process is long, expensive, bureaucratic and emotionally taxing! Just a minor correction, the shortest timeline from stranger to citizen is actually 3 years, not 5. If you have been married to your spouse for over two years you receive an IR-1 visa rather than the CR-1, and skip the “removal of conditions” stage after two years as a Permanent Resident. That’s the track I’m on.

    I desperately want to become a US citizen as soon as possible – I love and feel loyalty to both Britain and America, and my wife are likely to live in both countries at various stages of our lives. In fact, my wife just received her British citizenship last week and had her naturalisation ceremony at Camden Town Hall, I wrote about it here: https://semipartisansam.com/2018/01/13/on-citizenship/

    Frustratingly, because my permanent residency officially began in December last year, I will miss out on voting in the 2020 presidential election by a matter of weeks. But 2022 midterms, here I come! 😀

    1. Oh ok! Thanks, I’ll change it! How did it work with your wife paying tax? Did she get taxed in the States too while she was living in the UK?

      1. Fortunately she didn’t earn enough to pay UK tax but as part of the affidavit of support for my green card application she had to go back and get waivers from the IRS, and the accountants fees were just as much as a big tax bill! I don’t like how America double taxes it’s citizens when they are living overseas, they are one of the only countries that does so!

      2. Yes! Oh handy! But not good! Part of my worries if we moved back my other half would be getting taxed twice…it’s not fair! I read something the other day that it was to apparently punish the people that fled to another country so they didn’t have to enlist…

  2. I’ve been a permanent resident alien since I was a month old, my dad had become a US citizen for his work and sponsered his wife and kids and we came back and forth a few times before they decided to make the move permanent. (Funny thing is, dad retired back home!) So here I am, still not a US citizen because I want to go home one day for good and not have to go through a lot of hassle, unfortunately I just learned that unless I live in the US I cannot collect my social security, unless of course I am a US citizen. It’s ridiculous to me, I pay taxes, live and work here, I earned that money, yet I feel that I am being coerced into becoming a US citizen. My husband thinks it should be a no-brainer, yet I cannot imagine taking the citizenship oath in which I have to swear to renounce all “foreign” loyalties and citizenships. I know that the UK will always consider me a citizen, but it’s still hard.

    1. Wow, I never knew that!!! I was annoyed because the first time I done taxes I had only been here for 4 months and apparently I ended up owing the government money because I hadn’t paid in enough….how is that fair when I had only been in the country for 4 months?!?! I hear of a lot of Brits going in and crossing their fingers behind their backs when they say the oath haha!

      1. I’ve heard the same thing about crossing fingers when saying the oath!

  3. The road to citizenship is a long and expensive one and I wish the US would work on making more paths to citizenship possible. I have an uncle who is a British citizen who has been a permanent resident of the United States for 30+ years.

    1. Even to renew a Green Card every 10 years is SO expensive!! People often say it works out cheaper in the long run to become a citizen if you’re here for the long haul!

  4. Oh! You might be interested in the US reentry permit, which would let you leave the US for a longer period: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/B5en.pdf

    When my husband and I moved abroad, he was a US permanent resident. He got a reentry permit (and renewed it while we lived abroad) so he could keep his green card. That said, it was a bit stressful to enter the US during that time (he got hassled by border control about it once) and it was a relief when he finally got US citizenship as it made a LOT of things easier for us being abroad. I also have friends in the US who have never gotten citizenship, even after being permanent residents for decades.

  5. Very interesting to read all this. My husband is a US CItizen and UK. Lived in the UK all his life and got the US passport as his father was from USA. My connundrum is how do I get my children US passports. We’re to late as chiidren are bother over 5 years old f.or registering births abroad and in any case he doesn’t fit the criteria as never did have 5 years physical presence. I read somewhere as the children’s grandfather (now deceased) was a US Citizen with more than 5 years physical presence they may be able to get passports off the back of that. Thus we enter the murky and extremely confusing world of American Burorcracy. Ive tried getting in contact with the Embassy but they refer me to the Childrens Act but that doesn’t fit as the children currently live in UK. We aim to live in both countries but need to get the children passports. I (the wife) can just aim for a spousal visa. It seems from all the convoluted website that being a US Citizen is getting me no where at al! And not to mention the prices $1600 dollars to petition for two kids. I’m on the verge of engaging a lawyer stateside to sort this headache out for me!!

    1. Hi, thanks for the message! Just trying to get my head around your situation first, are you a US citizen and your husband has a US passport by birth? But both children are born in the UK? I alway assumed that if the parent had a USA/UK birth certificate you could then get a passport of that country for your child, I may be wrong (I don’t have children myself so I’m not sure exactly how it works!)

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