The Importance of Maintaining Your Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) Status
By Hanishi T. Ali
Lawful immigrants work hard and wait for years to obtain a lawful permanent residence (LPR) status or a green-card. Many, however, forget the important requirement of maintaining their lawful permanent residence status on obtaining the long-awaited green-card. This article discusses the factors that can be viewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers (CBP) as abandonment of LPR status and provides pointers on how to preserve your green-card.
In today’s globalized economy many immigrants, after receiving a green card, decide to take up career opportunities abroad on a short-term basis or decide to return to their home country for a few years to take care of their ailing parents. Whether you have obtained a green card through employment or a family, it is essential to understand the factors that may lead to a determination of abandonment of LPR status.
Some green card holders incorrectly believe that as long as they enter the United States within a 12-month period they will not be at risk of losing their green-card. Although it is generally true that a green-card can be presented at the port-entry after a temporary absence abroad, not exceeding 12 months, it is not an absolute rule. So, the fact that a green-card holder enters the United States each year, within the 12 month-period from the last departure, may not be sufficient and s/he could still be found to have abandoned his or her LPR status. On the other hand, a green-card holder who lives outside the United States for over a year is not regarded as automatically abandoning his or her green-card either.
This may sound very confusing but in essence whether one has abandoned his or her LPR status or green-card turns on “intent” of the green-card holder rather than solely on length of time outside the United States. To determine abandonment, officials consider factors such as reasons for extended or frequent absences from the United States; family or property ties abroad; business ties abroad; conduct while outside of the United States, such as voting in foreign elections; and failure to file U.S. Income tax returns. Intent of the LPR is a key factor and the courts will look at whether the LPR had intent to return to the United States as a home or place of employment.
Based on case law, green-card holders that have taken up permanent residency or citizenship in another country or green-card holders that have taken up employment or been long-term students outside the United States have not had positive results. On the other hand the courts have been more understanding to green-card holders who needed to remain overseas with family members who were under political threat and to those that needed to care for their terminally ill family members.
If you, as a green-card holder, plan to take a lengthy trip remain outside the United States it is prudent to seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney and to plan preservation of your green-card. Filing for a re-entry permit before your departure from the United States, is one such option. Although, a re-entry permit does not guarantee your return in to the United States, it is always a good idea to get it, whether or not you intend to remain outside the United States for longer than a year as it minimizes the risk of aggressive questioning at the port of entry and indicates to CBP that your trip abroad was of temporary nature and you had an intent to return to the United States at the end of your stay abroad.
In addition, it is fitting to mention here that if you as a LPR or green-card holder intend to live or work outside the United States for an extended period and your ultimate goal is to naturalize and become a U.S. Citizen, you should also seek legal advice on the impact it can have on your eligibility for naturalization. LPRs who stay away from the United States for extended periods also run the risk of being disqualified from naturalization.
Hanishi T. Ali is an attorney at Mithras Law Group, a Westborough based immigration and international business law firm. Hanishi can be reached at 617-500-3233 or at www.mithraslaw.com. Firm Blog at: http://immigrationinfo.wordpress.com/ on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/immigrationinfo