Commuter Status: How Travels Into and Out of the U.S. Can Affect Maintaining Your Permanent Residence Status

By Andrew Desposito, Esq

For many individuals, becoming a United States Permanent Resident and maintaining that status is a pretty simple thing. Simply living and working in the U.S. maintains the status because the purpose of being a Permanent Resident is that your home is in the United States. What happens when maintaining your home becomes an issue that immigration calls into question?

Recently, a client came to our office to help him address this issue that he faced from immigration. Trips into and out of the United States can trigger that issue with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which can impact one’s ability to stay a Permanent Resident. Our client, who has been a permanent resident for over 25 years, had been charged with being a “Commuter” and therefore not complying with all of the requirements of being a Permanent Resident in the U.S. The reason for his frequent trips down to Mexico for short periods of time were irrelevant as far as the immigration officer was concerned. So long as the client was not returning to his permanent address, the immigration officer was not convinced that our client was maintaining his permanent residence status.

The consequences of going to a commuter status is that one cannot petition for any family members or become a U.S. citizen. Although it is possible to return to permanent resident status, the delay in processing such claims and establishing permanent residence again can be cumbersome when it comes to readjusting that status. In addition, while a commuter, one has to have a job or actively seek a job if one becomes unemployed. Should a person not be able to find a job, that commuter status can be lost. This consequence is even more significant when the person making the frequent trips is not a resident or citizen of the country they commute to so frequently.

The moral of the story here is that immigration keeps track of the entries and exits of permanent residents and non-immigrants into and out of the U.S. While there is no ban on being allowed to come into and out of the U.S., if one does not maintain the requirements of the visa status that they have in the U.S., CBP can call that into question and require USCIS to make an inquiry into the matter. Plan your trips accordingly during the year so that immigration does not call your status into question and make you face these consequences.