Lawful permanent resident (LPR) is a status given to U.S. immigrants/non-citizens who can legally live in the United States forever. LPRs enjoy similar rights as citizens including working without special restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance, and join the armed forces, and LPRs have to file income taxes similarly to citizens. However, LPRs do not have any rights to vote in U.S. elections and may be prevented from some activities made exclusively for citizens such as certain jobs or scholarships. In order to become naturalized as a U.S. citizen, an individual must first become an LPR and live in the United States for five years with limited exceptions. A person with granted LPR status receives a permanent resident card (more commonly referred to as a green card) that proves their permanent status in the U.S.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides several broad classes of admission for individuals to gain LPR status. An individual that satisfies one of the categories can apply to become a LPR, but the United States sets annual limits for the amount of LPRs granted for each category. The most common way of receiving an LPR status is through a petition by a family member who is either a U.S. citizen or LPR already. Many individuals receive LPR status from their unique employment or skills that are recognized as beneficial for the U.S. Other LPRs can be granted for individuals from certain countries with limited U.S. immigration, for individuals facing certain human rights infringements, or for immigrants already in the U.S. under another status.
An LPR, while having permanent status, may be revoked unlike citizenship. If an LPR leaves the United States for more than a year at a time without receiving a return card, the status may be revoked by immigration authorities. Further, immigration authorities or a court may revoke LPR status if the individual partakes in criminal or otherwise harmful activity.
For more information on immigration statuses in the United States, click here.
[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]