What New Lawful Permanent Residents Need to Know About Voting
If you are applying for or have just been granted Lawful Permanent Resident Status, then this article is for you!
It is important to know that only U.S. Citizens are allowed to vote in federal or state elections in Pennsylvania (and most states). Lawful permanent residents are not allowed to vote in federal or state elections. Not only is voting unlawfully a federal and/or state crime that can result in fines or jail time, but it can also have serious immigration consequences. Merely registering to vote, even if you never actually vote, can also affect your ability to naturalize and become a U.S. Citizen.
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that an individual who unlawfully votes in an election is both inadmissible to and deportable from the United States. Being inadmissible could prevent someone from adjusting their status to become a lawful permanent resident. Being deportable means that the Department of Homeland can initiate removal (deportation) proceedings against you and you will have to defend your case in immigration court. Even if you are already a lawful permanent resident, registering to vote or voting could put you at risk of losing your green card and being removed from the United States.
While it may not seem very difficult to avoid this issue, you should be aware that many driver’s license centers routinely register people to vote when they apply for a new driver’s license or state ID. DMV staff may not know that green card holders should not be registered to vote. When you apply for a license/ID, make sure you understand what you are being asked to sign and review every form carefully. You should explicitly tell the DMV employee, even if they do not ask you, that you do not want to be registered to vote. If you are not fluent or confident in English, you should make sure to take a competent translator with you to the DMV. It is also crucial that you make sure that both you and the DMV employee do not check any boxes that indicate that you are a U.S. Citizen. False claims to U.S. citizenship, even if accidental, also carry very serious immigration consequences.
If you have registered to vote or voted unlawfully, there may be defenses available to you. The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices can assist you or your loved ones with their case. We are experienced in representing clients before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Immigration Courts. Please contact our office at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.