In the United States, Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)– also commonly referred to as green cardholders- can enjoy many of the same privileges and rights as American citizens. However, voting is not one of these rights. As a rule, green card holders are not permitted to vote in federal elections and are typically prohibited from voting in state and local elections, though this is not always the case.
In short, this means the legality regarding the voting rights of green card holders is slightly complex and dependent on several variables. For example, voting as an LPR is sometimes legal in specific areas and states as long as certain criteria are met. As such, it’s essential to fully understand the laws of your particular state before trying to vote, especially since even registering to vote when you’re not allowed to can result in severe consequences.
Who is Allowed to Vote in U.S. Elections?
There are specific requirements that people must meet to be allowed to vote in U.S. elections, and attempting to vote without meeting these requirements is a breach of the law that can bring about serious problems. Under the law, voters must be;
- A United States citizen
- A resident of the state you’re voting in
- Registered to vote (before the deadline of your state is reached)
- 18 years or older on or before voting on Election Day
As stated above, non-citizens- including LPRs- are barred from voting throughout the country, though even some U.S. citizens are not allowed to cast votes in some cases. Depending on the state you live in, those with felony convictions or mental incapacitation can have their right to vote removed.
What is the Punishment for Voting as a Green Card Holder?
Green card holders can face everything from fines to serious jail time and even exile from the country if they register to vote, even if they haven’t cast their ballot yet. The act of registering to vote as a permanent resident is considered fraud by the government because you’re attempting to impersonate a United States citizen. For example, one republican green card holder who voted illegally in Texas was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2017.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Greencard Holders
Aside from wondering whether or not lawful permanent residents have the right to vote, there is also a wide range of other commonly asked questions by those in possession of green cards in the United States. Let’s take a couple of minutes to explore some of these questions and what their answers mean for green cardholders. If you’d like access to even more information regarding your abilities as an LPR, please also consider exploring some of the expertly written educational resources provided by Brudner Law.
- Do green card holders have rights, and are they the same rights as U.S. citizens?
Green card holders have several of the same rights as U.S. citizens, but there are several things they cannot do, such as vote or run for public office. They are also not eligible for specific federal or government jobs, cannot travel abroad for extended periods, cannot sponsor family members for green card applications, and can be deported if they encounter legal troubles.
- Are green card holders considered citizens?
No. Green card holders are classified as non-citizens who are lawfully allowed to live in the United States on either a permanent or semi-permanent basis. They are also entitled to apply for U.S. citizenship if they meet a set of eligibility requirements.
- Can I stay in the United States on a green card forever?
Some green cards or Permanent Resident Cards contain no expiration date. However, the majority of them are only valid for ten years. Those granted conditional permanent resident status typically receive cards that are valid for only two years. LPRs need to ensure their card remains up-to-date and go through the card renewal process when it becomes necessary to do so.
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- Which is better, a green card or U.S. citizenship?
United States citizenship will allow an individual to enjoy all of the rights and privileges that the U.S. Constitution affords. In contrast, green card holders can only enjoy a limited range of benefits, and usually for only a specified length of time. Because of these limitations, it’s typically preferable to obtain full-fledged citizenship.
- Can you become a U.S. citizen without a green card?
To become a legal citizen of the United States, you need to have a green card for at least five years. Alternatively, you can have a green card for as few as three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen.
Final Thoughts and Considerations for Greencard Holders and Seekers to Keep in Mind
The rights and privileges an individual possesses as a green card holder can sometimes be complicated or confusing to understand. Thankfully, many helpful resources are available to educate people on the matter and ensure they’re not overstepping their rights as lawful permanent residents within the United States. If you require specialized assistance regarding your unique immigration case or would like more information regarding your green cardholder status and currently reside in or around the Orange County area, please don’t hesitate to contact our experts and schedule a consultation here at Brudner Law today.
Do you currently require the assistance of an expert immigration lawyer to help you navigate the complex process of acquiring a green card in the United States? Our trusted team of immigration professionals here at Brudner Law is ready to help, so please consider contacting us today at 714.794.9366 or filling out one of our consultation forms.