How to Keep the Card

Rights and Obligations

Your Green Card gives you rights but also comes with obligations !

Travel Abroad

Your Green Card Status will be considered ‘abandoned’ if you stay outside the U.S. for too long a time or too often.

Do Not Stray 1

You can lose your right to live and to work by getting a criminal record in the U.S. or immigrants even a small crime can have big consequences. If not right-away, then later-on.
E.g. shoplifting. It does not matter if it happens by mistake, if you return the item and/or pay for it after the fact. Most stores have a no-tolerance policy. They will call the police, you will be arrested and there is a chance you will be prosecuted.

Do Not Stray 2

You can lose your right to live and to work by trying to vote, pretending to be a U.S. citizen, driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication, or trying to sell or buy drugs.

Soft drugs can be legalized in the State where you live but are still illegal under Federal Law ! Buying alcohol and drinking it is illegal for a someone under 21. Buying for or giving it to a person under 21 is illegal too.

If a child/children immigrated with you please warn them too.
Consult an immigration attorney as soon as a problem develops.

Address Change

You are required to file every change of address with USCIS by submitting Form AR-11 Alien’s Change of Address, within two weeks of moving. Failure to do this can cost you your Green Card. You can complete Form AR-11 on the USCIS website.
Go to for Form AR-11 and for the Customer Service phone number if you file Form AR-11 by mail.

Green Card Renewal

Your Green Card stays valid indefinitely – as long as you do not stray – but must be renewed after 10 years. It is your own responsibility to request the renewal timely. (A change in Immigration Regulation could shorten the renewal period in the future.)

Tax Returns

You must file a tax return every year with the Federal Government (IRS) as well as in the State where you live. Some states have no income taxes. The U.S. taxes world-income. This means all your income is taxable regardless of where you earned it.
Residents who keep foreign bank accounts must every year report their accounts with the current balances to the IRS under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
You obligation to file a tax return with the IRS and if applicable with the State where you reside, starts the day you activate your Immigrant Visa at Port of Entry.
For more information go to

Social Security #

You need a U.S. Social Security Number. If you have a job you will be taxed ‘payroll taxes’ for Social Security and Medicare.
You will be issued a S.S. Card with your number on it. Keep your Social Security Number safe, be careful where and when you use it.
Your S.S. Number is not the same as your A-Number.
For more information go to

Selective Service

Male Green Card holders from age 18 till age 26 must register with the Selective Service System. This is a registry on behalf of the Armed Forces. Persons registered with Selective Service can be drafted in the event of a national emergency.
Go to for more information.

U.S. Citizenship

After five years of Permanent Residency you can file the request for naturalization – to become a U.S. Citizen.
A child that is under the age of 18 when you apply for citizenship automatically becomes a U.S. citizen too. The child will become a U.S. citizen even if only one parent opts for naturalization.
A child 18 years or older must apply for U.S. citizenship him/herself.
The U.S. has no rule that prevents dual citizenship. Your country of origin can have rules against it.

Go to for more on Rules for Permanent Residents.

Driver’s License

Visit the website of the State where you are going to live for additional information. Most States require that you apply for a driver’s license soon after arriving.