Issues for Lawful Permanent Residents Traveling Outside the United States for Extended Periods of Time

For a variety of reasons, many individuals who enjoy Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Status (a.k.a. “green cards”) in the United States need to travel outside the United States for significant periods of time.  It is important to know that Customs and Border Protection is cracking down on green card holders coming back from extended trips abroad.  Any time a green card holder plans to spend, or actually spends, more than six months outside the United States, the green card holder should proactively contemplate the potential immigration consequences of the trip.   

Green card holders are generally free to travel outside of the United States.  However, trips outside the United States lasting for longer than six months could place a green card holder’s immigration status in jeopardy.  U.S. immigration officials can revoke LPR status if they make a finding that a green card holder has “abandoned” his or her status as a permanent resident of the United States. 

U.S. immigration officials may find that you have abandoned your LPR status if you move to another country and intend to live there permanently, or if you remain outside the United States for an extended period of time.  Generally, a green card holder must be present in the United States for at least six months out of any given 365-day period to avoid presumptions that LPR status has been abandoned.  Any absence from the United States of more than a year while in LPR status without obtaining permission from U.S. immigration officials prior to departure will almost certainly lead to a finding that green card status has been abandoned. 

If an individual has LPR status but has been outside the U.S. for over six months, he or she may experience difficulties with Customs and Border Protection officers when he or she tries to enter the United States.  Depending on the length of time the individual has spent outside of the U.S. and the reasons for this absence, the green card holder could potentially be placed in Removal Proceedings and could have his or her green card revoked by an Immigration Judge after a finding that the individual “abandoned” LPR status. 

There are options available for green card holders who find themselves out of the U.S. for unexpectedly prolonged time periods due to circumstances beyond their control, and to green card holders who know, prior to departure from the U. S., that their travels will keep them abroad for more than six-months. 

Filing a Re-Entry Permit Prior to Departure

If you know that you will be outside the U.S. for a significant period of time, you can file an application for a reentry permit prior to leaving the United States.  The purpose of filing for a re-entry permit is to establish that you do not intend to abandon your status even though you will be spending more time outside the U.S. than is generally allowed. 

In the application for re-entry permit, you will need to justify to U.S. immigration officials why you need to remain outside the United States for more than the allowed time period.  You should also submit evidence showing continued ties to the U.S. sufficient to prove to immigration officials that you do not intend to abandon your residence in the United States.   

A re-entry permit is valid for up to two years.  It cannot be extended. 

It should be noted that even with a reentry permit, an absence from the United States of over a year will generally break the continuous residence requirements for naturalization.  If you are considering filing for a reentry permit and are concerned about the consequences for naturalization, you should speak call Immigration Solutions LLC 617-536-0584 and speak with an experienced immigration attorney before filing. 

Reinstatement of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Status

As mentioned above, U.S. immigration officials presume that an absence from the United States of more than a year constitutes an “abandonment” of green card status, and may consequently revoke the individual’s green card when the individual attempts to return to the U.S.  However, if the applicant can show that the extended stay outside the U.S. was due to circumstances beyond the individual’s control, the individual may be eligible to apply for reinstatement of LPR status. 

In order to qualify for reinstatement, an individual must file an application with a U.S. Consulate abroad.  The application must demonstrate that the individual departed the United States with the intention of returning, and that the stay outside the U.S. was protracted due to circumstances beyond his or her control and for which he or she was not responsible. 

If you hold LPR status but have been outside the U.S. for more than a year, it is critical that you speak to an immigration attorney before attempting to reenter the United States. 

Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status

Green card holders who voluntarily remained outside the United States for more than a year and did not file for a reentry permit prior to departure from the U.S. may choose to formally renounce their LPR status rather than risk facing questioning, possible detention, and lengthy court proceedings upon their reentry to the United States.  Renouncing LPR status can reduce uncertainty about what will happen during an individual’s next attempted entry to the United States, and can reduce the complexity of future immigrant and non-immigrant U.S. visa applications. 

Assuming that an individual earns all of his income outside the U.S., renouncing LPR status can also relieve the individual of the responsibility of filing U.S. taxes.  It should be noted, however, that U.S. immigration officials frown on renunciations of immigration statuses merely for purposes of avoiding tax liabilities.   Failing to demonstrate good faith reasons for renouncing LPR status may prejudice an applicant in future U.S. immigration applications.

Choosing to formally renounce one’s LPR status is an important decision and you should not do so unless you have been fully apprised of the costs and benefits.  Once you renounce your green card status, you will only be able to reenter the United States on non-immigrant visas.  Furthermore, if, in the future you want to move back to the United States and seek another green card, you would need to start the entire green card process over again from the very beginning, and you would only be able to do so if you remained eligible to apply for a green card. 

Immigration Solutions LLC can assess your options and help you make a decision.  It can also prepare the documents necessary to make a formal renouncement of your status.  If you are considering abandoning your LPR status, call Immigration Solutions today at 617-536-0584.

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