Whatever your reason is for moving to the US, this guide aims to help you figure out the most important costs you'll face when you live there.
If you’re reading this then you probably already have, or are in the process of getting, a green card. In which case - congratulations!
Having a green card has many benefits, not the least of which is putting you on the road to US citizenship.
But more on that later.
If you've been wondering: "can green card holders vote?" then keep reading as we go through all the technicalities on voting with a green card.
|Table of Contents 📝|
Voting is the process of formally expressing your stance on a political issue.
In the US, it can occur at the local, state and federal level, and usually takes the form of an election or referendum.
|📚 Election and Referendum|
In short, green card holders can vote in some situations. However, it’s not as simple as a yes or no issue.
So, although green card holders can vote in some instances, they are restricted in the type of elections in which they can vote. Let’s take a look at green card voting rights.
If you want to vote in all US elections, you’ll need to:
- Be a US citizen
- Be 18 years old by the day of the specific election
- Register to vote before the deadline of your state’s voter registration
- Meet the residency requirements of your state¹
On the other hand, you aren’t able to vote if:
- You’re a non-US citizen, even if you have permanent legal residency status
- You’re mentally incapacitated
- You’re a US citizen with specific felonies - dependent on state laws¹
So to answer the question - can green card holders vote? - the answer is generally no. But there are exceptions when green card holders can vote. Read more about that below.
If this just won’t do it for you, then you might be interested in becoming naturalized as a US citizen.
|In order to become a US citizen you'll need to:|
If you match these requirements then great news - you’re eligible to become a US citizen!
In this case, you can begin with filing Form N-400, also known as the Application for Naturalization.
You’ll have to pay a fee when filing Form N-400. So if your bank account is not in USD, then you might want to think about using a cheap international transfer service to pay for this fee, such as Wise.
With Wise, you’ll exchange your money at the mid-market rate, avoiding hidden surcharges normally lumped on by banks and other financial services.
As a general rule, green card holders can’t vote. However, there are a few situations where you can actually vote with a green card as a permanent resident. These are:
- Certain state and local elections - when allowed by your state
- If the election is “held partly for some other purpose”³
Let’s take a look at these exceptions in a little more detail.
US public laws says:
“Aliens are authorized to vote for such other purpose under a State constitution or statute or a local ordinance [...] conducted independently of voting for a candidate for such Federal offices.”⁴
So what does this exactly mean? Do you have to be a citizen to vote or can permanent residents vote too?
Simply put, if the laws of the state or municipality allow for some types of voting by non-US citizens, then you can vote in local elections. The only case in which this wouldn’t apply is if the state election has repercussions at the federal level.
Right now, there are 10 municipalities across the US that allow non-citizen voting in local elections. Nine of these are in Maryland and the other is in California.
So unless you’re living in one of these municipalities and fit the requirements, hang fire on voting and registration until you’ve become naturalized as a US citizen.
Remember - it doesn’t matter who wins the election if you’re deported and banned from re-entry!
Depending on which municipality you live in, you can vote in different types of elections.
|Type of elections|
If in any doubt, you can always contact your local council for up to date information.
Voting when you’re not supposed to is a pretty serious crime in the US - even simply registering to vote when you’re ineligible can get you in hot water.
According to official US government sources:
“Any person who violates this section shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than one year, or both.’’⁴
Similarly, if you vote when not actually eligible to do so, you will be considered inadmissible (forbidden from remaining in or entering the US) and are liable for deportation.¹⁶ ¹⁷
In conclusion, if you’re a green card holder/lawful permanent resident, then you’re generally restricted regarding voting rights.
As mentioned, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as municipalities that allow green card holders to vote in local elections. But if you want to vote in all elections, at state and federal level, then you’ll need to become a US citizen.
- USA gov - Who can and can't vote
- USCIS - Citizenship and Naturalization process
- Govinfo - Public Law (see ‘§ 611. Voting by aliens')
- Govinfo - Public Law
- Department of Elections
- Chevy Chase Section - Charter
- Garrett Park - Charter
- Glen Echo
- Martin's Additions - Council elections
- Riverdale Park - Nominations and elections
- Somerset - Charter
- Takoma Park - Registration and voting information
- Chevy Chase Section - Charter (see Section 602, 'Elections')
- and 17. Govinfo - Public Law (see Unlawful voters)
All sources checked 20 May 2021
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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