Residence permit

This article is about visas and citizenship issues. For common colloquial meanings of this phrase, see Legal residence and Tax residence.

Permanent residency refers to a person's visa status: the person is allowed to reside indefinitely within a country of which he or she is not a citizen. A person with such status is known as a permanent resident.

Countries with permanent residency systems

Not every country necessarily has a facility for someone to be a 'permanent resident'. Rights and application may vary widely.

All European Union countries have a facility for someone to become a permanent resident, as EU legislation allows an EU national who moves to another EU country to attain permanent resident status after residing there for five years. The European Union also sets out permanent residency rights for third country nationals under directive (2003/109/EC). A novel approach was the granting of rights across the national borders of states adhering to the directive. However, a report from the European Commission shows that these rights exist largely in theory, though, and not in reality.[1] Where countries were supposed to grant rights of residency, access to the labor market and rights nearly equal to those enjoyed by EU nationals, many countries had reduced the many of these rights locally, and making it difficult, or very expensive, to apply for the EU level permit.[2] The cross-border mobility rights under the directive also failed, with some countries limiting these rights to one of not needing to apply for an entry visa ("D") for the European Union when setting up in a new country. Of the million third-country nationals with "EU rights" residency permits, only around 100 per year were able to make use of the freedom of labor provision across the whole of Europe. An EU-funded project revealed further problems, discrimination and shortcomings in local applications of the directive.[3] As of 2013, the European Commission did not seem to plan any updates or changes to assure permit holders of the rights promised by directive 2003/109/EC.

Other countries have varying forms of such residency and relationships with other countries with regards to permanent residency status.

The countries that have some type of permanent resident status include:

Other forms of permanent residency

  • Turkey allows dual citizenship, and former Turkish citizens who have given up their Turkish citizenship (for example, because they have naturalized in a country that usually does not permit dual citizenship, such as Germany or Austria) can apply for the "Blue Card" (mavi kart), which gives them some citizens' rights back, e.g. the right to live and work in Turkey, the right to possess land or the right to inherit, but not the right to vote.
  • Some countries have made treaties regulating travel and access to the job markets (non-government/non-military-related work): A citizen of an EU country can live and work indefinetely in other EU countries and in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland (and citizens of these countries can live and work in EU countries). The "Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement" between Australia and New Zealand allows citizens of the two countries to live and work in each other's neighboring country. A citizen of a GCC member state (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) can live and work in other member states.
However, for voting, being voted and working for the public sector or the national security in a country, citizenship of the country concerned is almost always required.

Limitations of permanent residents

Depending on the country, permanent residents usually have the same rights as citizens except for the following:

  • they may not vote (though some countries such as New Zealand and Belgium allow this)
  • they may not stand for public office
  • they may not apply for public sector employment (except some countries that allow it like Canada and New Zealand; some countries allow it only for permanent residents holding citizenship of another country of shared heritage, like Brazil and Portugal[12])
  • they may not apply for employment involving national security (but some countries allow it). In Singapore, male PRs who have been granted PR before the age of 18 have to serve national service. Most first-generation males are exempted.
  • they may not own certain classes of real estate
  • they are not issued the passport of that country (unless otherwise stateless or unable to obtain a passport from their country of nationality, in which case they may be entitled to a certificate of identity instead)
  • they do not have access the country's consular protection (some countries such as Australia and New Zealand allow this)[13]
  • they may qualify to apply for citizenship after meeting a specified period of residence

Obligations of permanent residents

Permanent residents may be required to fulfill specific residence obligations to maintain their status. In some cases, permanent residency may be conditional on a certain type of employment or maintenance of a business.

Many countries have compulsory military service for citizens. Some countries, such as Singapore, extend this to permanent residents. However, in Singapore, most first generation permanent residents are exempted, and only their sons are held liable for NS.

In a similar approach, the United States has Selective Service, a compulsory registration for military service, which is required of all male citizens and permanent residents ages 18 to 26; this requirement theoretically applies even to those residing in the country illegally.[14] Applications for citizenship may be denied or otherwise impeded if the applicant cannot prove having complied with this requirement.

Permanent residents may be required to reside in the country offering them residence for a given minimum length of time (as in Australia and Canada).

Loss of status

Permanent residents may lose their status if they fail to comply with residency or other obligations imposed on them. For example:

  • they leave the country beyond a maximum number of days (varies among countries but usually more than 2 years)
  • they become a threat to national security, or they commit serious crimes and become subject to deportation or removal from the country

Access to citizenship

Usually permanent residents may apply for citizenship by naturalisation after a period of residency in the country concerned. Dual citizenship may or may not be permitted.

In many nations an application for naturalisation can be denied on character grounds, sometimes allowing people to reside in the country but not become citizens. In the United States the residency requirements for citizenship are normally five years, even though permanent residents who have been married to a US citizen for three years or more may apply in three years. Those who have served in the armed forces may qualify for an expedited process allowing citizenship after only one year, or even without any residence requirement.[15]

Automatic entitlement

Full permanent residence rights are granted automatically between the following:

In some cases (e.g., the member states of the European Union) citizens of participating countries can live and work at will in each other's states, but don't have a status fully equivalent to that of a permanent resident. In particular, under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, Australia and New Zealand grant each other's citizens the right to reside permanently and work in each country; however, the rights and entitlements of New Zealanders living in Australia under this arrangement (the so-called Special Category Visa) are somewhat short of those of Australian permanent residents, in particular with respect to unemployment benefits and similar benefits.

Proof of permanent residency

People who are granted permanent residency in a country are usually issued some sort of documentary evidence as legal proof of this status. In the past, many countries merely stamped the person's passport indicating that the holder was admitted as a permanent resident or that he/she was exempt from immigration control and permitted to work without restriction. Other countries would issue a photo ID card, place a visa sticker or certificate of residence in the person's passport, or issue a letter to confirm their permanent resident status.

In Australia and New Zealand, a printout of permanent residence visa or resident visa is stuck to a page of the permanent resident's passport.

In Canada, permanent residents are issued a photo ID card known as PR Card or Maple Leaf Card.

In Germany, resident permits (Aufenthaltstitel) have been issued as photo ID cards following a common EU design since 1 September 2011. Prior to that date, residence permits were stickers (similar to visas) which were affixed to the resident's passport.

In Ghana, permanent residents are issued a Ghana Permanent Resident Identity Card (Ghana Card).[16]

In Hong Kong, permanent residents are issued a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.

In Lithuania, permanent residents are issued a photo ID (Leidimas gyventi) following a common EU design.

In Macau, permanent residents are issued a Macao Permanent Resident Identity Card (Bilhete de Identidade de Residente Permanente).

In Malaysia, permanent residents are issued with a MyPR card similar to the MyKad issued to Malaysian citizens, the difference being the colour (red instead of blue) and additional information stating the cardholder's country of origin.

In Singapore, permanent residents are issued a blue identity card with their photograph, thumb print and other personal particulars similar to citizen's pink identity card

In South Africa, permanent residents who have their passport endorsed, are issued a certificate and a standard national green identity book showing "NON S.A. CITIZEN".[17]

In Slovakia, permanent residents are issued a red photo ID.

In Switzerland, permanent residents are issued a yellow ID.[10]

In Taiwan, permanent residents are issued a blue photo ID card (APRC). A separate open work permit can also be issued to permanent residents allowing them to accept employment in any non-governmental positions for which they are qualified.

In the United States, permanent residents are issued a photo ID card - officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, but unofficially referred to as a "green card".

In the United Kingdom, an Indefinite Leave to Remain sticker is on applicant's passport.


See also

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