Can Green Card Holders Vote - Full Guide for Permanent Residents

Vivien Thuri

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.

When applying for citizenship you may have to pay additional fees. In this case if you want to get the mid-market rate then take a look at Wise.

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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 📝

Can green card holders vote?

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
  • An election involves selecting candidates to represent you at the governmental level, such as with the presidential election.
  • Referendums, on the other hand, allow you to vote on single issues, in favour or against certain legislation.

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.

Who can vote in the US?

If you want to vote in all US elections, you’ll need to:

Who can’t vote in the US?

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:
  • Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years
  • Be able to speak, read and write basic English
  • Be a minimum of 18 years old
  • Have a min. of 5 years continuous residence in the US prior to filing Form N-400
  • Have been physically present in the US for a minimum of 30 months prior to filing Form N-400
  • Have lived within the same state or USCIS district of jurisdiction for a minimum of 3 months prior to filing Form N-400
  • Demonstrate an understanding of US government and history
  • Demonstrate a belief in the principles of the US constitution
  • Be of good moral character²

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.

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With Wise, you’ll exchange your money at the mid-market rate, avoiding hidden surcharges normally lumped on by banks and other financial services.

Exceptions - When you can vote with a green card

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.

Are there any states where green card holders can vote?

animated-people-put-ballots-in-voting-box

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.

MarylandCalifornia
  • Barnesville⁶
  • Chevy Chase Section Three⁷
  • Garrett Park⁸
  • Glen Echo⁹
  • Hyattsville¹⁰
  • Martin’s Additions¹¹
  • Riverdale Park¹²
  • Somerset¹³
  • Takoma Park¹⁴
  • San Francisco (non-citizen legal guardians of children living in San Francisco can vote for members of the Board of Education)⁵

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!

Which elections can green card holders vote in?

Depending on which municipality you live in, you can vote in different types of elections.

Type of elections
  • San Francisco, CA - non-citizen legal guardians of children living in San Francisco can vote for members of the Board of Education
  • Barnesville, MD - commissioner elections for Barnesville
  • Chevy Chase Section Three, MD - elections for village council¹⁵
  • Garrett Park, MD - all town elections
  • Glen Echo, MD - all town elections
  • Hyattsville, MD - all city elections
  • Martin’s Additions, MD - elections for village council
  • Riverdale Park, MD - all town elections
  • Somerset, MD - all town elections
  • Takoma Park, MD - all city elections

If in any doubt, you can always contact your local council for up to date information.

Consequences if you vote as a green card holder

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.

Sources:

  1. USA gov - Who can and can't vote
  2. USCIS - Citizenship and Naturalization process
  3. Govinfo - Public Law (see Ԥ 611. Voting by aliens')
  4. Govinfo - Public Law
  5. Department of Elections
  6. Barnesvillemd.org
  7. Chevy Chase Section - Charter
  8. Garrett Park - Charter
  9. Glen Echo
  10. Hyattsville
  11. Martin's Additions - Council elections
  12. Riverdale Park - Nominations and elections
  13. Somerset - Charter
  14. Takoma Park - Registration and voting information
  15. Chevy Chase Section - Charter (see Section 602, 'Elections')
  16. 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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