Unintentional Green Card Abandonment


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A Green Card (aka Permanent Resident Card) is something that is sought by many. It is the result of long and stressful processes. Now, some forget that the Green Card is a privilege (not a right), much like a driver’s license. As insurance is a requirement to drive, U.S. residency is a requirement for the Green Card. But, “U.S. residency” is not so straight forward.

Generally, a Green Card holder is permitted to travel outside of the United States for a period of 6 months out of the year, which may be taken as one long trip or in numerous trips. However, if a Green Card holder visits, moves, or temporarily resides outside of the United States, his or her Green Card may be deemed abandoned and his or her return to the United States may be denied on the grounds of Green Card Abandonment.

Green Card Abandonment may occur in the following situation:

  • Completely moving to another country with the intent to permanently live there (i.e. cancelling all ties to your home in the U.S.)
  • Without an I-131 Re-entery Permit, living outside of the United States for more than a year.
  • With an I-131 Re-entry Permit, living outside of the United States for more than two years.
  • Immigrant fails to file U.S. income tax while abroad
  • Immigrant claims non-resident on tax returns

As you can imagine, some of the above situations are not so obvious, like paying taxes or stating that you live abroad on the taxes. However, even though there are “1-year” and “2-year” periods stated above, Green Card holders may be deemed to have an intent to permanently live abroad, which could occur for periods longer than 6-months.

If, a Green Card holder is planning a long trip out of the United States, an I-131 Re-entry Permit would be a wise move. But, in the event the trip was not planned, a Green Card holder should watch his or her time outside of the United States.

If a Green Card holder is denied re-admittance to the United States based on Green Card Abandonment, the immigrant should seek out a SB-1 Visa at the local Consulate. (Site found here).

As a special note, Green Card holders who are associated with the armed forces, including their family and children have more benefits and may re-enter the United States more easily. (Information found here).

Moreover, Asylum and Refugee Green Card holders are subject to special travel restrictions and must strictly observe them. (Information found here).

Finally, since the Green Card is the process to naturalize as a U.S. Citizenship, Green Card holders should stay vigilant of the “continuous residency requirement,” which stays outside of the country for more than 6-months can disrupt one’s continuous residency.

If a Green Card Holder is planning to live abroad or is planning an extended trip, please speak with a local immigration attorney.

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