A permanent resident is not a citizen of the United States but a lawful resident of the country. Generally, foreign nationals who obtain immigrant visas and get into the United States, will be granted this permanent resident status. Others who travel to the country on non-immigrant visas may not be granted this status and they can only reside in the country for a certain period. Individuals who are granted lawful status in the country will be issued identification cards, commonly known as Green Cards or permanent resident cards and the holders of these cards will be granted immigration benefits and will be permitted to live permanently in the country and to accept employment. However, Green Card holders must maintain the status granted to them and if they do not meet the conditions of their status, their cards will be revoked and will be deported from the country.
Permanent resident cards are plastic cards and the biographic information and the photographs of the holders will be printed on these cards. Green Cards comes with barcodes and the personal information of the holders will be stored in these magnetic barcodes. Permanent residents must be aware the expiration dates of their Green Cards and must get their cards renewed, every ten years. However, the status of the holders may not be at risk even if their cards expire, but it is the responsibility of the holders to renew their Green Cards and make sure that their cards are valid. Permanent resident cards are also known as Alien Registration Cards and Form I-551. However, these cards are commonly known as Green Cards.
A permanent resident will be granted the privilege to reside permanently in America and proof of his status is his Green Card. According to the US immigration laws, a permanent resident can live in America for an indefinite period of time and may not be required to leave the country. However, his status will be at risk if he fails to take steps to maintain his status and fails to preserve his residency. These permanent residents can apply for US citizenship five years after becoming permanent residents and they can apply after three years, if they had obtained lawful status through marriage. This permanent resident status can be lost if the permanent residents abandon their status and live in foreign countries.
Nevertheless, permanent resident status and US citizenship are both different. US citizens need not renew any citizenship documents and they need not preserve their residency and they may not be deported from the country. They can also vote in federal elections and serve on a jury. But the permanent residents cannot do all this and if they fail to preserve their residency and if they live in foreign countries for a long time, their lawful status will be at risk and their Green Cards will be revoked. Though their status will not expire but they may be deported if they fail to respect and follow the US immigration laws.