Obligations of Legal Permanent Residents

As a legal permanent resident of the United States, one has certain privileges as well as obligations. It is important to understand the rules connected with this status in order to remain in good standing. This is particularly true for those whose ultimate goal is to attain U.S. citizenship.

Address Changes

Permanent residents must continue to advise the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of any address change within ten days using Form AR-11. Failure to file the form within ten days of moving is technically a removable offense. Each family member must file his or her own form.  Abiding by these legal requirements and completing the necessary forms does not update an address on any applications or petitions pending with USCIS. Non-citizens with pending cases must file a change of address AND update any pending applications.

Most permanent residents can now notify USCIS to change their address online on the USCIS website at https://https://egov.uscis.gov/crisgwi/go?action=coa

If you choose to change your address online, you should have the following information available before you begin:

  • Your receipt notice or other notice the USCIS sent you showing your receipt number (if you have a pending case with USCIS).
  • Your new address
  • Your old address
  • If you have filed a petition for a family member, you should have the names and biographical information for that person.
  • When you last entered the United States (if you cannot remember this information please fill in an approximate date)
  • Where you last entered the United States (through what port of entry you entered – whether by land, sea or air)

Selective Service Registration

Male permanent residents, ages 18 to 25 must register for Selective Service. Intentional failure to comply with this requirement is a felony and can prevent an individual from becoming a U.S. citizen.


As a permanent resident, you must file income tax returns and report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and your state, city, or local tax department, if required. If you do not file income tax returns while living outside of the U.S. for any length of time, or if you say that you are a “non-immigrant” on your tax returns, the U.S. government may decide that you have given up your permanent resident status.


Permanent residents who leave the United States for extended periods, or who cannot show their intent to live permanently in the U.S., may lose their permanent resident status. If you think you will be out of the U.S. for more than 12 months, you should apply for a re-entry permit before leaving the country.

“Green Cards”

If you are a legal permanent resident, you are required by law to carry evidence of your status, such as your Green Card.  You should be aware that Green Cards issued since the end of 1989 have an expiration date on the front of the Green Card with a ten-year validity. If you were issued your Green Card about 10 years ago and the Green Card has an expiration date on it, you should check the expiration date to see when your Green Card needs to be renewed. Green Cards issued from 1977 to 1989 that do not have an expiration date will remain valid until USCIS implements an official replacement program in the future.


The United States is a law-abiding society. Permanent residents in the United States must obey all laws. If you are a permanent resident and engage in or are convicted of a crime in the U.S., you could have serious problems.  You could be removed from the country, not allowed back into the U.S. if you leave the country, and, in certain circumstances, lose your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. The most common issues that arise for otherwise law-abiding individuals are drunk driving, assault (including domestic assault), and shoplifting; however, all criminal activity should be avoided.  Any permanent resident who is arrested for ANY reason should seek immigration advice from an attorney experienced in this area of the law prior to making decisions on how to proceed with the criminal case.

Other activity that may have serious consequences for a legal permanent resident are: failure to pay child support, lying to obtain public benefits (such as food stamps), voting, abusing drugs or alcohol, bigamy, lying to get immigration benefits for you or for someone else, violating court orders, and misrepresenting yourself as a U.S. Citizen.

This information is a general summary, and there may be exceptions or additional requirements that apply in an individual case.  Information is given for demonstrative purposes only, and should not be relied on without consulting an attorney.  Specific advice can only be given by an attorney who is familiar with facts pertinent to a specific case.