A Resident Alien is a United States resident who was foreign-born and is not a U.S. citizen. A resident alien is considered an immigrant who has been legally and lawfully recorded as a resident of the country. Resident aliens remain citizens of another country. When they leave the United States, they must carry the passport of their country with them, as well as their U.S. green card. The green card allows re-entry into the US. As citizens of another country, they cannot vote in the US but have certain their rights protected by the US Constitution.
Types of Resident Aliens
A permanent resident has a permanent resident card, or “green card”. A person with this status has the right to live and work in the US indefinitely and can renew their green card every 10 years. They may be eligible to naturalize and become U.S. citizens after 5 years (or 3 years if the status was obtained through marriage).
Conditional Permanent Resident
Conditional permanent residents have receive a “permanent resident” (green card) that is valid for only two years. They must file a petition to remove these conditions or they will lose their permanent resident status. Spouses of US citizens will first be conditional permanent residents, and are expected to still be married to the resident after only two years.
If a green card holder has left the US for longer than one year, they lose their permanent resident status. They may only re-enter the US and resume permanent residence if they obtain a new visa. A returning resident visa can be issued if the person did not leave the US without intention of returning within 1 year, and the circumstances of their longer than expected stay abroad were beyond their control.