Many who come to Illinois from other countries have faced a number of challenges. The process of gaining entry to the United States through the immigration system is tedious and can be difficult. Some wait for years for permission to enter lawfully, but when they finally receive their green card, they may be unsure of the rights and responsibilities their lawful residency allows them.

Perhaps the most important thing about receiving a green card is that permanent residents have access to schools, health care, jobs and housing free from discrimination. Green card holders may also own property and apply for a driver’s license. If a permanent resident is otherwise eligible, he or she may apply for federal benefits, such as Medicare or Social Security.

The advantages of holding a green card extend beyond the resident who has received permanent residency. He or she may sponsor a spouse or unmarried children who wish to obtain a visa to the United States. While a green card allows one to vote in local elections, he or she may wish to seek U.S. citizenship in order to vote in national elections.

Some rights protected by one’s permanent residency status should be exercised with caution, such as traveling outside the country. It may even be beneficial to seek the counsel of an Illinois immigration attorney before traveling to ensure one does not violate the rules for permanent residency. Additionally, certain behaviors may place one at risk of removal even if he or she holds a green card. Obtaining legal counsel as soon as possible is a wise move for someone in these circumstances.