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Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence (Maintaining Ties and Re-entry Permits)

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the U.S. is a privilege, and the status can be abandoned, even involuntarily. Abandonment of permanent residence (also known as the “green card”) occurs when the resident fails to maintain status by not residing in the U.S.

Many Lawful Permanent Residents returning to the U.S. each month are met with a surprise at the port of entry, when they are accused of abandonment. Unfortunately there is no simple rule regarding exactly how long a resident can stay outside the United States. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers will review the totality of the circumstances in deciding whether an LPR’s intent was to abandon their residence.

Generally, spending less than one year outside of the U.S. is not abandonment, whereas spending over one year at a time outside of the U.S. does indicate abandonment. LPRs that have been outside of the U.S. for over one year should review their eligibility for a “returning resident visa” with the nearest U.S. consulate abroad.

Many LPRs mistakenly believe that residing overseas, but returning home once or twice a year for several weeks at a time indicates a lack of intent to abandon—however, abandonment can easily be found in such instances as well. Further, even if the resident obtains a Re-Entry Permit—allowing them to be outside of the U.S. for up to two years at a time—abandonment may still be an issue.

So, then, what is a resident contemplating foreign travel to do?  Some residents have legitimate reasons for temporarily needing to live abroad, such as temporary work, children finishing school, and sick relatives to care for.  How do such individuals, who truly do intend to reside in the U.S., prove their intentions? Why is it that one person can be found to have abandoned after traveling out of the U.S. for 9 months, but another person has been out for 21 months and not been accused of abandonment?

The key to understanding abandonment is not to focus on time, but rather, to understand that time spent out of the U.S. is simply one of the numerous ingredients comprising the formula for the immigration intent. In order to keep their green card, the LPR must retain their U.S. residence as their permanent one and intend to reside in the U.S. Therefore, all LPRs who wish to keep their green cards should take the necessary steps in accordance with the above to establish sufficient facts evidencing that they are maintaining strong ties with the U.S. and retaining the U.S. as their permanent home.  

Over the years, we have seen the following factors as demonstrating ties to the U.S.:

1)     Paying U.S. taxes

2)     Maintaining a U.S. address

3)     Paying a mortgage in the U.S.

4)     Maintaining professional or social memberships

5)     Family ties in the U.S.

6)     Maintaining valid U.S. driver’s license

7)     Paying utility bills

8)     Maintaining medical/life insurance policies with U.S. company

9)     Conducting Financial Transactions in the U.S. (using U.S. credit cards and bank accounts)

10)   Maintaining Investments in the U.S.

11)  Proof that there is a fixed, finite, viable reason for being abroad (such as employment, schooling of children)

12)  Enrolling children in an International or American school while abroad (may indicate maintenance of ties to U.S. and a willingness to return)

Abandonment issues can arise in numerous circumstances, including when a resident abroad wishes to enter the U.S. as an LPR or when the resident wishes to voluntarily (I-407) abandon their green card in lieu of visitor visa eligibility.  Abandonment issues also arise when a resident in the U.S. has been placed into removal proceedings upon entry to the U.S., when filing an I-90 to renew resident status, or when contemplating applying for a re-entry permit. 

U.S. lawful permanent resident status is a top prize in the lottery of life. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world seek LPR status and spend years pursuing it.  If you are a resident and are contemplating abandonment implications on your status, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney.

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