Many foreign nationals might mistakenly think that once they’ve secured their permanent resident card (green card), it is not possible to lose their permanent status. However, multiple and prolonged absences from the United States may jeopardize a foreign national’s legal permanent resident (LPR) status, and could disqualify them for naturalization.
U.S. immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. Remaining outside the U.S. for more than 12 months may result in a loss of legal permanent resident status and also disqualify an otherwise eligible LPR from qualifying for naturalization.
Abandonment of LPR status occurs when the LPR demonstrates his or her intent to no longer reside in the United States as an LPR after departing the United States. While LPRs are permitted to travel outside the United States, depending on the length and circumstances of the trip abroad, the trip may lead to a determination that the LPR abandoned his or her LPR status. There is no fixed period of time that will trigger abandonment, but LPRs are treated as seeking re-admission if they have been absent from the United States for a continuous period of longer than 180 days. A LPR returning from a visit of more than 180 days is subject to the grounds of inadmissibility and can be questioned as to potential abandonment of residency. More significantly, absences of over a year create a legal presumption that the LPR has abandoned his or her status.
USCIS reviews multiple factors when assessing whether an applicant objectively intended to abandon LPR status, including: (1) the length of absence from the United States; (2) the purpose of travel outside the United States; (3) a foreign national’s intent to return to the United States as an LPR; and (4) continued ties to the United States (such as length of time in the United States, U.S. residence of other immediate family members during this period, continued employment in the United States, property ownership, U.S. business affiliations, payment of U.S. taxes, etc.)
To avoid issues, LPRs may apply for a USCIS reentry permit. Individuals holding USCIS reentry permits may remain outside of the United States up to 24 months. Possessing this permit removes the length of the absence as a factor as to whether residency was abandoned, assuming the LPR returns within the allowed period (a maximum of two years). This reentry permit may be obtained by filing Form I-131 with the USCIS before leaving, along with a filing fee and biometrics fee. For more details on applying for a reentry permit, please consult with an immigration attorney.
Foreign nationals who have decided to voluntarily abandon their LPR status and relinquish their green card are required to file Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, with USCIS. Form I-407 is designed to provide a simple procedure to record an individual’s abandonment of status as an LPR of the United States. Please prepare sufficient time to abandon your green card with Form I-407 before you register for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) under the Visa Waiver Program should you wish to return to the United States temporarily.
Abandoning your Permanent Resident Card card and status does not affect your eligibility to apply to immigrate to the United States in the future. However, those who abandon status will have to file a new USCIS petition and immigrant visa application process.