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What is a Residence Permit?

By Pablo Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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A residence permit refers to a person’s visa status. A residence permit is usually referred to as a “permanent resident card.” It allows the holder to live and work indefinitely in a country of which she is not a citizen. The residence permit is usually in the form of an identification card similar in size and appearance to a driver’s license. The card is proof that the holder is a permanent resident of the country in which she is living.

Cards that function as a residence permit vary from country to country. They are sometimes coded by color or some other feature, like a national symbol, to distinguish them from other forms of identification. In the US, a permanent resident card is referred to as a “green card.” Other countries may affix the resident status to the person’s passport.

Permanent resident systems are in place in countries throughout the world. Each country has its own requirements for permanent resident status. In some countries, permanent resident status is granted automatically to citizens of certain other countries, usually ones with close political or historical ties. This is the case, for example, between the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the various states of the Soviet republic.

Generally, permanent residents can apply to gain citizenship by naturalization after a certain amount of time. In the US, it is five years. This period can be shorter if the applicant served in the US military. In some countries, the applicant for citizenship may be able to hold dual citizenship with another country. In the US, dual citizenship is not encouraged but it is allowed.

Permanent residents of most countries generally have the same rights as citizens, with the exceptions of the right to vote, hold public office, or obtain public employment. Canada and New Zealand do not restrict the rights of permanent residents to hold public jobs. The obligations of permanent residents are to comply with the conditions of their residency. Laws regarding compulsory military service in some countries may also apply to permanent residents. Permanent residents are expected to obey the laws of the country in which they reside.

Loss of permanent resident status can result for many reasons. Conviction of a serious crime can result in loss of permanent resident status and possibly removal from the country. A permanent resident who leaves the country for a longer period than allowed by immigration rules of that country without returning can lose her permanent residence status. In the US, the commencement of removal, formerly “deportation,” proceedings by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can also result in loss of status. Discovery at anytime that false information or fraudulent documents were used to gain entry into the country can result in loss of permanent resident status and possible removal proceedings.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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