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Keeping a Green Card

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For immigrants who aren't planning on spending 100% of their time in the United States, keeping a green card can be almost as difficult as getting one in the first place. It's important that you know the rules for keeping your green card and following them, so that you don't need to start the difficult and expensive process of getting a green card all over again.

What are the official rules to keep ones green card valid?

There are several “rules” green card holders must follow, such as filing tax returns, not voting in elections and refraining from criminal behavior. However, the most common issue that comes up with green card holders is the travel restriction. Green card holders cannot leave the U.S. for extended periods of time and must always show their intent to live permanently in the U.S.

If you expect to be out of the U.S. for more than 12 months, then you should apply for a re-entry permit before you leave. There are also physical presence and continuous residence requirements which must be met in order to apply for U.S. citizenship.

What are the reasons for losing your green card?

A very common reason for losing permanent residency (i.e. your green card) is remaining outside the U.S. for a long period of time. Staying outside the U.S. for more than 6 months could raise questions upon your return. Generally, though, you may be found to have abandoned your residency if you have been absent from the U.S. for 1 year or more. If you know you will be out of the U.S. for 1 or more years, then you should apply for a Re-Entry Permit.

A Re-Entry Permit is a travel document issued by USCIS to permanent residents who need to reside outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, but who intend to return to the U.S. to resume their residency. Re-Entry Permits can be issued for as long as 24 months with subsequent extensions possible. Even with a Re-Entry Permit, you should still maintain close ties to the U.S., such as by maintaining active bank accounts and filing taxes. Note, however, that a Re-Entry Permit does not preserve residency for Naturalization purposes.

What are the necessary steps to keeping Permanent Residency status once obtained?

A very common reason for losing permanent residency is remaining outside the U.S. for a long period of time. Staying outside the U.S. for more than 6 months could raise questions upon your return. Generally, though, you may be found to have abandoned your residency if you have been absent from the U.S. for 1 year or more. If you know you will be out of the U.S. for 1 or more years, then you should apply for a Re-Entry Permit.

A Re-Entry Permit is a travel document issued by USCIS to permanent residents who need to reside outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, but who intend to return to the U.S. to resume their residency. Re-Entry Permits can be issued for as long as 24 months with subsequent extensions possible. Even with a Re-Entry Permit, you should still maintain close ties to the U.S., such as by maintaining active bank accounts and filing taxes. Note, however, that a Re-Entry Permit does not preserve residency for Naturalization purposes.

If you did not obtain a Re-Entry Permit prior to leaving the U.S., then you may face problems upon re-entry. However, although difficult, there still may be ways to argue that your permanent residency should be preserved.

If you have any further questions about keeping a green card or other immigration topics, please feel free to contact us and we can help you out.

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