Preserving Your Green Card Status

One of the most revered moments immigrants experience is when they receive their permanent residence status. Some immigrants wait many years to receive this status and are finally able to reside permanently in the United States. As a permanent resident, you are required to maintain the United States as your permanent domicile and place of abode. If you fail to do so, you could give the U.S. government grounds to prove that you have abandoned your permanent residence. In addition, you are required to refrain from committing certain crimes that could render you deportable.

I. Loss of Green Card Status Due to Abandonment

The requirement that you maintain residence in the U.S. does not in any way mean that your freedom of travel out of the U.S. is in any way restricted. To the contrary, freedom of travel is one of the foundational cornerstones of the American culture. However, you must remember that no matter how frequently you travel outside the U.S., immigration regulations require you to maintain the United States as your permanent home. If you desire to apply for U.S. Citizenship, it is best not be absent from the U.S. for more than 6 continuous months at any given time. You should not confuse the six (6) month rule for Citizenship with a similar rule that applies to abandonment. The Citizenship 6 month rule interrupts the continuous residence requirement for Citizenship purposes.

Abandonment of permanent residence is the most serious issue facing legal permanent residents or green card holders hoping to preserve their permanent residence. That is because an absence for more than six months could give rise to a “rebuttable presumption” that you have abandoned your green card status. This means that if you were absent from the U.S. for more than six months but less than a year and the Customs and Border Protection Officer at the port of entry determined that you may have abandoned your residence, he could place you in removal or deportation proceedings and have you explain to an Immigration Judge that you did not sever your ties from the U.S. Proving ties is not a black and white formula and depends on the existence of factors, including the existence of indicia of ties such an actual physical home or residence, insurance, belongings, etc. If you are in doubt about your situation, you should contact or call us at (800) 625-3404 to discuss this matter at your earliest opportunity with one of our experienced immigration attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates. Our immigration lawyers will carefully analyze your specific situation and will advise you relative to the best course of action to preserve your permanent residence.

Generally, absences from the U.S. exceeding one year could give rise to an irrefutable presumption that you have abandoned your permanent residence unless the green card holder possessed a valid re-entry permit. A re-entry permit is a document granted to permanent residents to facilitate their entry to the U.S. after a prolonged absence if sufficient intent to reside in the U.S. permanently is established. This fact was confirmed by CBP officers serving Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, Ohio, international airports in a meeting held in Columbus, Ohio, with the American Immigration Lawyers Association on October 28, 2010. A re-entry permit is valid for two years.

In deciding whether a permanent resident abandoned her permanent residence, immigration officials will examine several factors, including the length of time, whether the absence is excused, and the physical indicia of ties the person has with the U.S. For instance, a green card holder failing to file income tax returns normally is evidence that permanent residence has been abandoned. Hence, it is highly advisable for permanent residents to file their income tax returns while overseas and to have proof of such filing at the time of return to the U.S. There are other factors that indicate intent not to sever ties with the U.S., including maintaining U.S. bank accounts, personal property such as furniture, an automobile, insurance, valid driver license, and other things that people normally keep when they reside in a country. It is advisable to keep copies of documents proving the existence of such evidence to present to the port of entry officers upon return to establish that the legal permanent resident did not abandon their green card status.

If the green card holder’s absence was due to employment, he/she should have a letter from the employer confirming that the absence was job related and the terms of such absence. If there were extraordinary circumstances that gave rise to the absence, such as illness to the permanent resident or to a close family member, having such proof is helpful as well. All such documents will help the immigration officials recognize that the legal permanent resident continued to maintain ties to the U.S. and that they did not abandon their green card status.

You should also know that visiting the U.S. once a year will not necessarily be sufficient to preserve the green card holder’s permanent residence status. Even when the green card holder is not absent for more than a year at a time, an immigration officer may, in the absence of such sufficient ties described above, determine that there is not sufficient intent to remain in the U.S. permanently. For that reason, permanent residents should have ample evidence indicating that they have sufficient ties at the time of their entry.

Contact or call the experienced lawyers at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates at (800) 625-3404. We have decades of combined experience in handling complex immigration matters. If you are concerned about your absence or the risk of being accused of abandoning your permanent residence, you should consult with one of our attorneys at a location near you. We’re ready to listen to your particular matter and apply strategies that assure preserving your hard-earned green card.

I. Loss of Green Card Status Due to Criminal Conviction

If a permanent resident committed certain deportable offenses he/she risks losing their green card status. For instance, if the permanent resident was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, a crime of violence, or an aggravated felony, he may face deportation from the U.S. by being placed in removal proceedings. A removal proceeding is a process by which the government alleges that a certain individual needs to be removed from the U.S. and would request an immigration law judge to make such a decision. If you are a permanent resident who has been placed in removal proceedings due to the conviction of a deportable offense, contact the competent immigration attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates. They have the expertise and years of experience to argue a relief on your behalf and to represent you in your upcoming hearing. There are several relief avenues available to permanent residents who have been convicted of a deportable offense. You should discuss your particular matter with one of our competent immigration lawyers to make certain that all possible relief opportunities are explored.

II. Loss of Green Card Status Due to Fraud or Mistake:

If permanent residence was procured by fraud, mistake, or misrepresentation, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) may, in fact, rescind the permanent residence status. This process basically means that the U.S. government, upon discovery of fraud, mistake, or misrepresentation, would take away the green card and the status that comes with it. The process begins with the government issuing a Notice of Intent to Rescind Permanent Residence. These are rare proceedings due to the required level of constitutional safeguards that the government is required to observe when trying to take back someone’s permanent residence. The government would take such an action if it discovered that while applying for permanent residence, the green card holder committed certain forms of misrepresentation or fraud. This underscores the importance of always being truthful to the government. The USCIS usually pursues individuals who have committed egregious actions involving fraud or misrepresentation in submitting documents or in filling out an application.

In addition, a permanent resident is required to always report a change of address within 7 days of moving on Form AR-11. It is advisable to always maintain a copy of the green card and keeping such copy in a safe place. If you lose your green card or it becomes mutilated for any reason, you could apply for a replacement of such card by properly filing Form I-90 electronically on or by mailing it along with the required filing fee to the appropriate address.

How to Contact Us:

If you are fearful of losing your green card status or if you have been accused of having abandoned your permanent residence, contact the experienced attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates at (800) 625-3404. Our competent immigration lawyers have decades of combined experience in handling a myriad of complex immigration-related issues including nonimmigrant visas, permanent residence, and removal. Contact our office today for a consultation with one of our immigration lawyers in Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, Southfield near Detroit, Michigan, or in Washington, D.C.

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