San Diego Immigration Attorney: How to Keep Your Green Card? – Frequent Travel Abroad and Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status

A Green Card is not for ever. Once a person obtains Permanent Residency there are rules to follow in order to keep that Green Card. The AILA DC Chapter offers this pointer to provide a brief overview on this topic.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) treatment of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who leave the United States for long periods of time, yet return once every six months, has been of long-standing concern to many. There is a common misunderstanding that simply returning to the United States once every six months will preclude a finding that one has abandoned his or her lawful permanent residency.

Whether an LPR has abandoned permanent residency, however, is not based solely upon the length of time spent outside of the U.S. In fact, during an October 20, 2011 meeting with the D.C. Chapter’s CBP Liaison Committee, Baltimore (BWI) CBP representatives confirmed that “CBP officers are less focused on the length of time abroad and more on where does the person actually live.”
According to the representatives, CBP officers will look at the totality of the circumstances, including “how many years the person has lived in the U.S.; whether the person is employed in the U.S. or abroad; where family members live; [and] whether U.S. taxes have been paid.” “Domicile” is the major issue for CBP inspectors, so the applicant should have evidence with him/her of where s/he lives.

The CBP Inspector’s Field Manual (“IFM”) similarly explains that the length of time spent abroad is not the sole indicator of abandonment. The IFM notes that other indicators of possible abandonment are “employment abroad, immediate family members who are not permanent residents, arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are non-residents with return passage, lack of a fixed address in the U.S., or frequent prolonged absences from the U.S.”
In questionable cases, the IFM advises officers “to ask for other documentation to substantiate residence, such as a driver’s license and employer identification cards.”
When there is a concern as to the loss of a Permanent Resident Status, we need to review thoroughly all the facts of the situation and not focus solely on the length of time abroad. This is especially important due to the considerable risk that travel abroad entails.

If you have concerns about you Green Card due to long absence from the US, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Read about How to Keep the Green Card after you get it