How to Keep Your U.S. Permanent Residence Status and Live Abroad

Did you know that if you are a U.S permanent resident, you can lose that status and your “green card” if you have been residing outside the U.S.?

How is this possible? The Immigration law permits the USCIS to commence a removal proceeding to strip you of your residence if the USCIS can prove that you have abandoned your U.S. residence. How does this usually happen? When you are returning to the U.S. and are inspected at the Airport or land border, the most common question of “How long have you been away?” can result in more questions about your reasons for being away and the total time you have been away since obtaining your U.S. permanent residence. If the Immigration Inspector believes that the facts and circumstances indicate you have abandoned your residence you may be given the option of “voluntarily” agreeing in writing to give up your residence and permitted to visit the U.S. or requesting a hearing before an Immigration Judge. If you request a hearing and lose, then you could be ordered removed from the U.S. and have difficulty returning in the near future.

To avoid this dilemma or predicament, it best to explain that your reason for being away from the U.S. is of a temporary nature and that you have clear ties and a residence in the U.S. that you intend to return to when the temporary purpose of stay abroad is over. To avoid a detailed inspection by the Immigration Officer, it is highly recommended to obtain a Reentry Permit(USCIS form I-131). A Reentry permit not only extends the 1 year validity of your alien registration card to 2 years, it also provides “prima facie” evidence that you have not abandoned your U.S. residence. Presenting the Permit to an Immigration Inspector in most case may be all you have to do to avoid a detailed inspection. While the permit does not guarantee that this will happen, from my experience it has worked in all cases. You should still be able to explain the temporary nature of your absence and your date of expected return to the U.S., just in case the Immigration Inspector decides to question you further.

Other important documents to have just in case would be a copy of your U.S. Resident 1040 tax return, a lease or deed to a U.S. residence, U.S. bank accounts, and a letter from a U.S. employer if you are on a temporary assignment. While having these documents is very helpful, the most important document to speed your admission to the U.S. is the Reentry Permit.

Myth #1
I only need to return to the U.S. once a year to keep my green card:

Your green card can be voided if you are away for more than a year but visiting once a year puts you in jeopardy of being found to have abandoned your residence.

Myth #2
I do not have to pay U.S. Income Taxes or file a U.S. Tax Return on income I earn outside the U.S.:

If you are a U.S. permanent resident, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. taxes. See an Accountant.

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