Exploring the benefits of permanent residency

Many people confuse permanent residency with U.S. citizenship, but these are two very different statuses that come with separate benefits. One may become a citizen by being born in America or having parents who were citizens at  the time of birth, whereas a permanent resident holds a visa that allows him or her to live in the country indefinitely despite not being a citizen.

Permanent residents do not have all of the same benefits as those with U.S. citizenship. For example, they can work and live in the country, but people with this visa status may not vote in national elections. Permanent residents may also take advantage of the following benefits:

Drivers license
After obtaining a permanent resident care, you can use it to prove eligibility for a state-issued drivers license. You must bring the original copy of the permanent residency card in addition to any other documentation required by your state’s department of motor vehicles, such as proof of address and birth certificate. You may also be required to pass a written test and prove your ability to drive through a behind-the-wheel assessment. Contact your local DMV for exact details about the drivers license application process.

Social security card
Immigrants can apply for social security cards when they apply for permanent residency through the U.S. Department of State. This involves filling out form  “DS 230, “Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration” or the electronic version, “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.” Those who complete this process will receive a card with a valid social security number upon arrival in the U.S.

If you did not apply for a social security card as part of your visa application or failed to receive one upon arrival in the country, you must visit your local social security office to obtain one. You will need to bring the following documentation with you:

  • Passport or permanent residency card
  • Birth certificate

During your visit, a representative from the social security office will help you fill out the application. You will then receive your social security card within two weeks of processing.

Some forms of public aid
Even though you do not have U.S. citizenship, this type of visa status will allow you to take part in certain public aid programs as long as you meet each one’s specific eligibility requirements. These may include:

  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program