The day you enter the USA after being approved through the Green Card lottery, you become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) – more usually known as a Green Card holder or permanent resident alien. What rights do you have compared to US citizens?

Well broadly speaking an LPR has nearly identical rights to a US citizen. The biggest difference is that the LPR cannot vote (and even that has a caveat). So – an LPR has the following rights among others:

  • Live anywhere they want
  • Travel anywhere in America without getting permission
  • Work at any employer
  • Run their own business and so on
  • Own a gun (subject to local and state laws)
  • Own/drive a car (subject to local and state laws)
  • Protection from various forms of discrimination or harassment
  • Petition immediately for a Green Card for a spouse or unmarried children (more detail here)
  • Can apply for citizenship after 5 years (3 years if the LPR is married to a US citizen).


There are also obligations of a LPR, the same as a citizen and these start the day you enter the USA the first time.

  • Report tax on USA and foreign income.
  • File the Report of foreign bank and financial accounts (FBAR) annually if you have any foreign accounts with over $10k

Being an LPR has some specific obligations not shared by citizens.

  • You need to inform USCIS if you change you address using this site.
  • An LPR is required to carry their Green Card at all times (can be fined or even imprisoned)

A Green Card holder can also lose the LPR status in certain scenarios

  • Leave the country for longer than 12 months without obtaining prior permission (re-entry permit)
  • Certain serious crimes could lead to the revocation of the Green Card


Regarding voting. As an LPR you may be offered the chance to vote in local and state political elections. Even though you can do that, you should not do so since that can adversely affect  a subsequent citizenship application.


There is a very nice information booklet that goes into more detail here.