How Do I Maintain my Permanent Resident Status If I’m outside the US?

How many times have you heard that you may lose your Green Card status if you commit an act that is a ground for deportation?   Sections 237 and 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act are clear on this point. If you committed certain felonies and prohibited acts described in sections 237 and 212, not only will you be held liable for the commission of the crime, you can be removed from the United Stated. However, at the discretion of Attorney General, the application of some of these provisions of Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) may be waived for humanitarian reasons.

Your actions can be descriptive of your intent to abandon your permanent resident status in the following instances:

  • You took another country as your place of residence and you have the intention to live there indefinitely.
  • You declare yourself as a nonimmigrant in your tax returns.
  • You did not file your income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any length of time.
  • You were not physically present or you remain outside of the US for more than one (1) year without applying for a reentry permit or a returning resident visa. Note that even an absence of less than one year may be considered in determining if you have abandoned your permanent resident status.
  • You remain outside of the United States for over two years after you obtained your reentry permit without applying for a retuning resident visa.

Obtaining a reentry permit can prevent these two types of problems from becoming imminent:

  1. When you are outside of the United States for over a year, your Permanent Resident Status will become technically invalid.
  2. If you took residence on another country, your US Permanent Residence will be considered abandoned regardless of whether your US absences are less than 1 year.

You can apply for a reentry permit by filing a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. It is best to file this document ahead of your scheduled trip because you can only file it while you are in the United States, although you are not required to be in the US when the USCIS is going to approve your application. After you submitted your application for reentry permit, the USCIS will inform you of the date when you are scheduled for your biometrics. Leaving the US prior to biometric scanning  will compel the USCIS to deny your application.

After the USCIS has approved your petition, your next concern is how to get the copy of your reentry permit when you are outside the US. You can prevent this issue from bothering you if at the time you submit your application you have indicated  that you are requesting for your reentry permit to be sent to a US embassy abroad where you can personally claim it.

If you were living abroad for over one year or beyond the validity period of your reentry permit, you will need a new visa – the Returning Resident Visa, which will enable you to re-enter into the United States and continue your permanent residence.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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