An immigration attorney spends a lot of time helping immigrants achieve permanent residency in the United States. Sometimes though it’s not getting the green card that’s the hard part, it’s keeping it. Lawful permanent resident (LPR) status implies in its name “residency”. However many green card holders still maintain ties to their home countries and travel for family or business. It’s extremely important to be aware of what you need to do to maintain your LPR status. Per USCIS, you may be found to have abandoned you permanent residency status if you:
- Move to another country intending to live there permanently;
- Remain outside the U.S. for more than 1 year without obtaining a reentry permit or returning residency visa. However you may also be deemed to have abandoned your residency even if absent from the U.S. for less than one year;
- Remain outside the U.S. for more than 2 years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning residency visa;
- Remain outside of the United States for more than 2 years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa. However, in determining whether your status has been abandoned any length of absence from the United States may be considered, even if less than 1 year;
- Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period;
- Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your tax returns;
If you are a permanent resident and plan to travel abroad for over 6 months, consult an immigration attorney to be sure you are taking the proper steps to maintain your residency status. Also, if you ever travel back to the United States and are pressured by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to sign a form in order for you to voluntarily abandon your Permanent Residency Status, simply: DON’T DO IT. Tell the CBP officer that you do not wish to abandon your green card and that you would like to exercise your right to contest this before an Immigration Judge. You will be scheduled for a hearing where you will have the opportunity to convince an Immigration Judge that you did in fact maintain permanent residency status. Lastly, the best way to avoid any potential issues with abandoning your green card is to apply for citizenship as soon as you are eligible. Keep in mind that extended time out of the U.S. as a permanent resident may also delay your eligibility for naturalization.
Often it takes a lot of time and effort to obtain permanent residency status in the United States. As with anything in life, the benefits of having LPR status do not come without responsibilities to keep and maintain it. Educate yourself about your responsibilities as an LPR so you will best enjoy its benefits.