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Getting a permanent residency card can signal a new beginning for many immigrants seeking to settle in the United States. It sometimes takes years to get through the application process and can be expensive, depending on the circumstances of the applicant. Unfortunately, while legal or lawful permanent residency guarantees more for immigrants in the country, it is not a guarantee against deportation. In some instances, even legal permanent residents can be deported.
A person who is granted lawful permanent residency is allowed to live and work in the United States permanently. A person can become a lawful permanent resident through an application by an eligible family member, a job, as an asylum seeker or refugee, and through a few other special categories. Some applicants receive conditional permanent residency, for example if applying through marriage. After some time, the conditional status can be removed. Once permanent residency has been granted, a lawful permanent resident can go on to complete the naturalization process and become a citizen.
For an immigrant on conditional permanent residency status, committing crimes such as fraud can lead to removal proceedings and deportation. For example, if your conditional status is based on marriage, and the government learns that your marriage was a sham entered into for the sole purpose of getting you a green card, the government can terminate your conditional status and begin removal proceedings. During removal proceedings, you have a chance to seek a review of your case in order to prove that you are not guilty of fraud.
A lawful permanent resident can also lose permanent residency by being absent from the United States for a long period of time. If a person is gone for about six months or more without re-entry into the United States, he or she may not be allowed back into the country. To avoid this result, a lawful permanent resident can apply for a special re-entry permit before leaving the United States, or make sure that he or she is not absent from the country for an extended period of time.
Removal proceedings for lawful permanent residents can be initiated if the lawful permanent resident is convicted of what is described as a crime of violence. A person who is convicted of murder is permanently barred from naturalization. The definition of what constitutes a crime of violence is hard to pin down because in some instances it could mean that someone who commits a robbery and is convicted may be deported, and yet someone with an unregistered gun may not. This sort of ambiguity is being challenged in front of the United States Supreme Court, and a decision is awaited that will hopefully set out more clear guidelines as to which crimes may make a lawful permanent resident eligible for deportation.
Lawful permanent residents can also voluntarily choose to relinquish their status by filing United States citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-407.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Receiving a green card is a significant step towards gaining citizenship. If you are a lawful permanent resident facing removal proceedings you can fight your removal at the hearing. For more information, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP.