What Is a Permanent Resident?

A Permanent Resident is an immigrant in the United States who has been granted permanent status within America.

Permanent Residents may live, work, study and travel freely throughout the 50 United States and other territories.

Permanent Residency is quite different from other work visas, which are granted on a temporary basis to foreign nationals.

Other work visas or work permits are subject to periodic re-assessment, whereas Permanent Residency does not expire as long as the Green Card holder complies with the requirements for maintaining status in the U.S.

Green Card

The Permanent Resident Card

The Permanent Resident Card itself is the document that shows that you have the rights associated with Permanent Residency.

This document is also traditionally called the Green Card because it is often rendered on green paper.

There are many different ways to apply for a Green Card in the United States. Below are the three most popular pathways to U.S. Permanent Residency:

  • The Green Card Lottery. This program is easy to qualify for and is often preferred to the other options because it isn’t so in-depth. There are a limited number of visas given out for this category, however.
  • Green Card through Family. If you have a close family member already in the United States you may be able to apply for a Green Card because of your relationship.
  • Green Card through Work. If you can secure a job in the U.S. you might be able to get a Green Card through that job.

If you get a Green Card through Family as a spouse of a U.S. Permanent Resident or citizen, you will be issued a conditional Green Card.

Conditional Green Cards are slightly different than other Green Cards in that they will expire in two years instead of the standard ten years.

If you fail to apply for a Permanent Resident Card before the expiration of your conditional Permanent Resident Card you may have your status revoked.

The U.S. government retains this policy to protect the immigration system against fraud and marriages of convenience.

Full Permanent Resident Cards can be renewed every ten years, but there is no penalty to allow the document to expire.


Immigrants who want to eventually become citizens in the U.S. must first get a Permanent Resident Card. However, with that document in hand it is only a short matter of time before they may be eligible for full citizenship.

Full citizenship in the United States enables an immigrant the ability to do a number of things they could not do as a Green Card holder, such as:

  • Vote in federal elections
  • Work for the U.S. government
  • You cannot be deported for any reason unless you are found to have fraudulently applied for citizenship.

Get started on your pathway to citizenship today and apply for Permanent Residency through the Green Card Lottery!