Preserving Permanent Residency and Obtaining a Reentry Permit

Once an individual becomes a legal permanent resident (LPR), it is necessary to preserve this status. The status is “permanent” as long as the individual complies with his or her obligations as an LPR. One way a person may lose LPR status is if he or she spends prolonged periods of time outside the United States. As a result, he or she may be considered to have abandoned his US permanent residence. Immigration inspectors at ports of entry increasingly scrutinize the length of travel outside the US of LPRs, and the reasons for prolonged travel. Therefore, precautions should be taken if an LPR will be outside the US for more than six months.

When is an LPR considered to have abandoned residency and what are the consequences?

There is no strict criteria that port of entry inspectors use to decide whether a person has abandoned status. A green card can be used as a valid entry document as long as absence from the United States is not for more than one year. However, visiting the U.S. once a year is not enough to maintain status. An absence of more than six months raises a presumption that the person has abandoned US residence. Several other factors are considered in making this determination: 1) a person’s intent upon departure from the United States; 2) whether the travel abroad has a specific purpose and a definitive end date; 3) payment of taxes in the US as a resident; and 4) ties to the United States: employment, property ownership and residency indicators (e.g., valid driver’s license, active bank accounts and credit cards, club/church/association memberships).

Upon entry to the US after a prolonged absence, a legal permanent resident (LPR) should carry documentation confirming the above, and be able to show evidence of the reason for the absence. A person who is unable to convince the port of entry inspector that he or she has not abandoned his residency may be asked to sign Form I-407 to voluntary relinquish his green card, or be put into removal proceedings and have his or her green card seized pending the outcome of the proceedings, which can take several months or more.

What is a Reentry Permit?

Port inspectors do tend to give more deference to holders of Reentry Permits. By applying for and obtaining a Reentry Permit, an LPR is notifying the government, in advance, that it is possible the LPR will be outside the United States for a period of up to two years, and that he or she does not intend to abandon residence. The Reentry Permit must be applied for while in the United States, although it is not necessary to wait for its issuance prior to departure.

How does White & Associates assist?

If you plan to be outside the U.S. for an extended period of time and would like some professional guidance on preserving status, we would be happy to consult you on your specific situation. We may assist in applying for a Reentry Permit. We help with the preparation of the application, and the challenging logistics of the filing. Because the applicant must be in the United States at the time of filing and go through biometrics in the United States, our office will help to plan and coordinate these activities prior to your departure. We help clients obtain expedited biometrics so that they are not stuck in the United States waiting for these appointments.

For clients outside the US for extended periods, we help them prepare for a return visit to the United States and their inspection interview at the US port of entry. Given the severe consequences of a port inspector’s determination that permanent residency has been abandoned, it makes sense to be prepared for any such encounter. Insistent port inspectors can try to get you to relinquish your green card; we can assist in protecting you from these overzealous inspectors. In the event that removal proceedings are initiated, we may assist or find and coordinate with local counsel to ensure that your rights are defended. Finally, we may consult you on obtaining citizenship, notwithstanding significant absences outside the US.

Please contact us for more information.