Immigrating to the United States is a privilege that can be taken away if you do not follow U.S. laws and the rules set by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Along with the privilege of residency comes some responsibility. If you are an immigrant, follow these 10 tips to help you stay in the USA legally.

1. File as Many Immigration and Visa Petitions You Can

Have as many people as possible petition for you if you are applying for a visa or green card. Having more than one petition increases your chances of success. The idea is that if one petition is denied, you still have another. The more petitions you have, the higher your chances of success. U.S. citizen family members and employers can petition for you. Family petitioners must file form I-130. Employer petitioners must file form I-140.

2. Always Arrive to USCIS Appointments on Time

It is important to arrive on time to all immigration appointments with the USCIS, immigration court, or U.S consulate or embassy. Being late to an appointment can delay paperwork processing or even result in your deportation.

3. Keep Copies of All Immigration Paperwork

Keep copies of all paperwork pertaining to your immigration. That way if the USCIS loses your paperwork, you can provide copies. In addition, send all mail certified and request a return receipt, so that if needed, you can prove that you filed your paperwork in a timely manner.

4. Renew Work Permits, Visas and Green Cards Well in Advance 4. Renew Work Permits, Visas and Green Cards Well in Advance

The USCIS processes many applications and often is backed up, causing applications to be delayed. You cannot legally work with an expired work permit. It is illegal to stay in the U.S. with an expired visa or green card. If you are caught, you can get deported. Avoid problems by applying for your work permit, visa and green card renewals way in advance.

5. Register for Selective Service

If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26 years old, you must register for selective service to let the U.S. government know that you are available to serve in the military. Service in the military is voluntary, unless there is a draft. You can register at any Post Office or online at the Selective Service website.

6. Report a Change of Address

If you are living in the United States for 30 days or longer, you must inform the Department of Homeland Security when you change your address, within 10 days of your move. You can report your change of address by completing form AR-11 and sending it to the USCIS, or by using the online change of address tool on the USCIS website.

7. File Tax Returns

File state and federal tax returns for any income that you make. A failure to file tax returns and pay your taxes can result in the loss of your permanent resident status.

8. Obey U.S. Laws Immigration Rules

Obey all U.S. laws and immigration rules. Read the information included with your work permit, visa, or green card, to find out the rules you must follow as an immigrant. A failure to obey U.S. laws and immigrant rules can result in deportation and even a permanent ban from re-entering the United States. Contact the USCIS or an immigration attorney if you are unsure of what immigration laws apply to you.

9. Avoid Leaving the U.S. for too Long

Don’t leave the U.S. for an extended length of time. If you stay out of the country for too long, you may lose your permanent resident status. If you must leave the U.S. for longer than 12 months, apply for a re-entry permit by filing form I-131, before leaving the United States. A re-entry permit is valid for two years, and increases the likelihood that you will be re-admitted into the U.S.; however, it does not guarantee re-admittance.

10. Become a U.S. Citizen

If you already have your green card and want to stay in the U.S., apply for citizenship to make your stay permanent. You can apply for citizenship five years after you receive your green card. If you have a spouse that is a U.S. citizen, or if you obtained your green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen, you can apply for citizenship three years or sometimes less than three years after you received your green card. Another advantage to having U.S. citizenship is that you can help your relatives legally immigrate into the country by petitioning for them.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Welcome to the United States - A Guide for New Immigrants

DocStoc: U.S. Law Immigration Handbook

U.S. Department of State: Immigrants to the United States