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Legal Issues Green Card Travelers Face | Illinois Immigration Law

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

Retaining Lawful Status When Green Card Holders Travel

​Some may think that one can reside here in the United States permanently with “lawful permanent residence status” commonly known as a Green Card. Often Green Card holders are surprised to find themselves in Removal Proceedings. Although people who carry non-immigrant visas or green cards have the right to be in the United States. This right is dependent on the fact that the alien has not violated legal rules. The following are examples of a few grounds that a legal permanent resident may find himself in removal proceedings:   

  1. He or she was inadmissible at time of U.S. entry or of adjustment of status
  2. He or she had conditional permanent resident status but terminated the status
  3. He or she helped smuggle any other alien trying to enter the United States
  4. He or she committed marriage fraud
  5. He or she was convicted of crime of Moral Turpitude that was committed within in 5 years
  6. He or she was convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time as long as two crimes did not arise from the same scheme or misconduct
  7. He or she was convicted of aggravated felony
  8. He or she failed to register as a sex offender
  9. He or she has been convicted of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect
  10. He or she has failed to advise the immigration authorities in writing of change of address within the last ten years
  11. He or she has abandoned residence

‍This blog article focuses on the issue of abandonment. Abandonment leads to the loss of LPR status. Abandonment of a green card may arise when a legal permanent resident tries to enter the United States after residing outside of the United States for more than six months since becoming permanent residents. A permanent resident that has resided outside the United States for more than 180 days may find CBP confiscating their green card at a point of entry.  The Alien may instead receive a Notice to Appear for a hearing on the issue of abandonment of status.  An officer may try to lure an alien to sign an I-407 which is abandonment of Legal Permanent Status. It is extremely important that the alien realizes that signing this form means voluntarily abandonment of permanent status.

‍Even if the alien is lawfully admitted in the United States, the N400 application during naturalization will have the alien list all countries that the legal permanent residence has visited for a prolonged period. Regardless of how many years have lapsed the alien may still find himself in removal proceedings. The Burden on the alien is to show that during the prolonged period abroad, the alien maintained continuous ties with the United States. The Alien may show that he or she has property in the United States, he or she is still employed in the United States and at no period he or she had any intent to make any other place his permanent residence.

‍For most naturalization applicants, the law requires that prior to obtaining their citizenship they have continuously resided in the United States for a period of five years. Those that have obtained their status through marriage must continuously reside in the United States for only three years.  The Alien can travel outside the United States for periods less than Six months. Absences that are more than six months breaks residency requirements. However, this can be overcome if the alien can prove that he maintained continuous ties with the United States while he or she were abroad.  Periods for more than a year will break continuous residence.

‍If an Alien were to reside outside more than 6 months it may be to their best interest to apply for N-470 petition. The N-470 will preserve residence requirements for naturalization purposes. In addition to applying the N-470 petition the alien should also apply for a re-entry permit form I-131. A reentry permit may prevent a finding of abandonment.

‍It is not necessary for one to be outside of the United States for 180 days to lose permanent resident status. There is no formula that can determine if one has abandoned their legal status as a legal permanent resident. The Department of Homeland Security and immigration will make their determination by a case by case basis.

If you do feel the need to travel abroad for an extended period. Please contact our Immigration attorneys so that we assist in you in submitting the proper petitions prior to your extended travel. 

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