Permanent Residents:

How To Maintain Green Card Status?


Congratulations! You’re now a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or Green Card Holder. That does not mean, however, that your journey is over. While the first step may be over, the journey to maintain the right to live and work in the United States is just beginning. It is very important for you to maintain permanent residence status in the US, especially if you have any desire to become a US Citizenship.

In order to maintain permanent resident status, you must permanently “reside” in the US, otherwise you run the risk of no longer being considered a permanent resident of U.S.

Becoming an LPR means you have gained new rights and responsibilities related to your adopted nation, the United States. It’s also important to remember that being an LPR is a “privilege” and not a “right.” The US government can take away your green card under certain conditions.

In this article, we’ll review how you can maintain your LPR/green card status, and why it is so important to do so.

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How To Maintain Your LPR Or Green Card Status

There are several steps you should take to maintain your LPR status in the U.S., especially with a view toward seeking naturalization in the future:

1.Don’t leave the United States for any extended period of time, or move to another country with the intent to live there permanently

2.Always file your federal, state, and, if applicable, local income tax returns as a resident.

3.Register with the Selective Service if you are a male age 18 to 25.

4.Notify DHS every time you move.

My Case Scenario

Bruce, a national of Great Britain and a permanent resident of the US, married his long time girl friend a couple of years ago. He filed a relative petition for her shortly after they got married. Bruce finished his Bachelors degree in engineering at a university in England and got a job at British manufacturing company after graduation. He has been living primarily in Great Britain for the last 5 years (including his last 2 years at university and 3 years working). He has only been coming back to the US for a few weeks every couple of years to renew his re-entry permit. Bruce has paid his US income taxes, but has no residence in the US other than the home of his parents (whom he got his green card through).

Bruce is planning a trip to the US next month, and his wife should be scheduled for her immigrant visa interview within the next 3 months. Will Bruce have any difficulties in maintaining his permanent status when he travels to the US next month? We will answer this question after we continue our discussion.

Do Not Leave The United States For An Extended Period Of Time

Many immigrants believe they can live abroad for as long as they want, as long as they return to the US at least once a year. This is actually a myth! Long and/or frequent absences may indicate that you are not intending to maintain your LPR status in the US or have a permanent residence abroad.

Permanent residents who remain outside the US for extended periods of time, or who cannot show their intent to live permanently in the US, may be considered to have abandoned their status in the US and can ultimately loose the green card. Contrary to popular belief, a determination that you have abandoned your LPR status is not based solely on whether or not you have spent more than 6 months or 1 year outside the U.S. but also on the reasons for your absence and how you have otherwise maintained your LPR status in the U.S.

If you think you will be out of the US for more than 6 months, and definitely if there is any chance you will be outside the US for more than 12 months, but you have no intention of abandoning your LPR status, you should apply for a Re-entry Permit before leaving the country. A Re-entry Permit is valid for two years and allows you to remain continuously outside the US. You may show the Re-entry Permit, along with your visa or your Green Card, at a US port of entry.

Having a Re-entry Permit does not guarantee that you will be readmitted to the US. It indicates that your trip abroad, though long, was temporary and that the U.S. remains your permanent residence. You must, however, be ready to prove that you are maintaining your LPR status despite being abroad.

File Tax Returns?

As a permanent resident, it is imperative that you file income tax returns as a resident and report all your worldwide income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and your state, city, or local tax department, if required. If you do not file income tax returns while living outside the US for any length of time, or if you file as a “non-resident” on your tax returns, the US government may use that as evidence that abandoned your permanent residency.

Register With The Selective Service

If you are a male and you are a male age 18 to 25, you must register with the US Selective Service. When you register you are informing the US government that you are available to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. The US does not currently have a military draft, which means that permanent residents and citizens do not have to serve in the Armed Forces unless they want to and affirmatively enlist.

Inform DHS When You Move

Every time you move, you are required to inform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of your new address. You must file a Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card, within 10 days of your move. There is no fee to file this form and can be filed online.

Obey The Laws Of The U.S., It’s States And Its Localities

It is your responsibility as an LPR to obey all the laws in this country, including local laws. It is important for all LPR’s to remember that engaging or being convicted of certain crimes in the U.S. may result in your removal or “deportation” from the U.S. or prevent you from naturalizing and becoming a citizen.

Examples of crimes that will affect your green card status include:

  • Any crime defined as an “aggravated felony,” which include crimes of violence that are felonies with a one-year prison term.
  • Murder.
  • Terrorist activities.
  • Rape.
  • Sexual assault of a child.
  • Illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people.
  • A crime of “moral turpitude,” which in general is a crime with an intent to steal or defraud; a crime where physical harm is done or threatened; a crime where serious physical harm is caused by reckless behavior; or a crime of sexual misconduct.

There are also serious consequences for you as a permanent resident if you:

  • Lie to get immigration benefits for yourself or someone else.
  • Claim you are a U.S. citizen if you are not.
  • Vote in a federal or local election open only to U.S. citizens
  • Commit bigamy
  • Are arrested for assaulting or harassing a family member, including violating a protection order or other crimes involving domestic violence.
  • Lie to get public benefits.
  • Fail to support your family or to pay child or spousal support as ordered.
  • Fail to file tax returns when required.
  • Willfully fail to register for the Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Help someone else who is not a U.S. citizen or national to enter the United States illegally, even if that person is a close relative and even if you are not paid.

If you have committed any crime, or have been convicted of a crime, you should consult with a reputable immigration attorney or a community-based organization that provides legal service to immigrants, before you apply for another immigration benefit or travel outside the US.

Why Is It Important To Maintain Your Lawful Permanent Resident Status?

A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or green card holder) can apply for U S Citizenship through naturalization after they have been a permanent resident for five years. This period is shortened to

1.Three years if the permanent resident is married to a U S citizen and received their green card status through that US citizen spouse, or

2.Four years if permanent residency was received through political asylum or refugee status.

LPRs may submit their applications for naturalization up to 90 days before meeting the residency requirement.

Properly maintaining LPR status is the only way to ensure that you can naturalize and become a US citizen and enjoy the rights that only US citizens have, including:

1.The right to vote.

2.The right to run for political office in the federal government.

3.The ability to apply for certain jobs in the government sector

4.The freedom from fear of deportation.

5.The freedom to travel anywhere in the world without worrying about the loss of “status” int the U.S.

Now let’s go back and see what will happen to Bruce. Let’s recap the facts: Bruce has been living outside the US with his British wife; he is working for a British company; he has no true residence in the US; and he only comes back to the US every couple of years. He does, however, have a re-entry permit and he has continued to pay his US taxes.

Bruce may very likely have problems at the port of entry. Based on his activities abroad, including remaining in England to work and marrying and living a UK national, a CBP officer may find that he had the intention to permanently live abroad and abandon his residence. The re-entry permit and filing of taxes in the US may not be enough to overcome the suspicions of an immigration officer. He will have to be prepared for some tough questions and the worst-case scenario- being referred by the CBP officer to removal proceedings.

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While lawful permanent residents have many of the same rights enjoyed by US citizens, it is important to remember that maintaining permanent residence in the U.S. entails important responsibilities as well.

The privilege of being an LPR in the U.S. go hand in hand with the important responsibility of maintaining status by following the strict guidelines set out for LPR’s. Failing to maintain LPR status may very well put you on the road to removal from the U.S.- an act that can be permanent.

For more information about maintaining your LPR status, your eligibility for Naturalization or obtaining the Re-entry permit, contact VisaPro. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.

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