After obtaining a visa to study, work or visit in the United States, many immigrants consider the option of adjusting their status to permanent residency. Still others may apply for permanent residency from the start, through their employer or the sponsorship of a family member who is a U.S. citizen. You may have special qualifications that make you eligible for a green card, or you may be taking your chances through the U.S. Immigration lottery.
Whatever the path you take to become a permanent resident of the U.S., you probably know it will not be easy. The U.S. immigration system is complex for the protection of the country and its citizens. However, obtaining permanent resident status means you will be able to enjoy many of the benefits of a U.S. citizen.
What do I have to gain?
Of course, once you have lawfully obtained a green card, the government expects you to uphold the minimum responsibilities of a permanent resident. This means avoiding criminal or subversive behavior, paying income tax to the IRS and registering with Selective Service if you are male and between 18 and 25 years old. However, these may be small considerations compared to the freedoms and rights you will enjoy, including the following:
- Living anywhere in Colorado or any other state
- Seeking employment in any legal industry that suits your qualifications
- Benefiting from government programs like Social Security and Medicare if you qualify
- Obtaining a driver's license from the state in which you are living
- Receiving an education from public schools and colleges
- Purchasing a home
- Sponsoring your spouse or minor children who wish to immigrate to the U.S.
- Applying for U.S. citizenship
These rights carry the stipulation that you are not under legal restrictions. For example, you may not be able to leave Colorado if you are on parole, and any actions that place you at risk of deportation may jeopardize your rights.
There are other benefits to permanent residency status, such as voting in some local elections, traveling outside the country and owning firearms, but you should exercise these with caution. Violations of laws related to these matters can result in loss of your status and potentially your eligibility for naturalization. Seeking guidance from an attorney is always an option, especially because immigration issues can be challenging to understand.