You have many rights and obligations as a permanent resident (green card holder) that are important to remember and to understand. Not following the guidance below can result in the loss of your green card through abandonment.

You have the right to:

  • Live permanently in the United States;
  • Work in the United States;
  • Obtain professional licenses, state benefits, mortgage loans, company ownership, etc. on the same basis as Americans;
  • Sponsor your spouse, children, and adult sons and daughters for permanent resident cards;
  • Re-enter the U.S. without a passport;
  • Travel without visitor visas to certain countries.

As a “permanent” resident, you are required make the U.S. your “permanent” home. At a minimum, you must:

  • File U.S. income tax returns and report global income. Such filings must be made as a Resident Alien, not a Non-Resident Alien;
  • Register with the Selective Service, if you are a male aged 18 through 25;
  • Register changes of address with the federal government within 10 days of each move.

You can travel outside the U.S. for a temporary visit of limited duration, and re-enter the U.S. as a green card holder.

In some instances, an officer at a port of entry (such as an airport) may ask questions to determine whether you have “abandoned” your green card status. An officer may pose these questions and make a finding of abandonment even if you have been outside the U.S. for less than 180 days. You must always answer such questions truthfully. In general, you should:

  • Confirm you are “returning home” when you re-enter the U.S.
  • Give your U.S. address for your residence when you re-enter the U.S.
  • Avoid traveling on round-trip airline tickets that originate in another country, particularly to a destination that is not the same as your U.S. address (such as a vacation destination).

An officer analyzes “abandonment” based on many factors that are not limited to the length of absence. These include: 1) how many years the person has lived in the U.S.; 2) whether the person is employed in the U.S. or abroad; 3) where family members live; and 4) whether U.S. taxes have been paid. Generally, those who work full time outside of North America and have held CPR or LPR cards for more than two years are more likely to face abandonment challenges.

Within the first two years of permanent residency, your intent to live permanently in the U.S. may be documented. These intentions can be documented by:

  • Having (and using) U.S. credit cards;
  • Having (and using) bank account(s) in the U.S.;
  • Having a U.S. driver’s license;
  • Maintaining close ties with family members in the U.S.;
  • Having children attending or applying to school in the U.S.;
  • You and/or your spouse maintaining or seeking employment in the U.S. ;
  • Any work abroad being temporary and coming to an end;
  • Owning or seeking to own assets in the U.S. (such as a house, car, etc.);
  • Renting property in the U.S.;
  • Belonging to U.S. civic and/or professional organizations.

You risk being refused entry to the U.S. as a green card holder if you:

  • Are absent from the U.S. for more than 180 continuous days;
  • Have not made the U.S. your “permanent home” as outlined above, or establish that another country is your primary residence despite having had U.S. permanent residency for more than two years.

You must understand that permanent ties to the U.S. and/or the intent to live permanently in the U.S. are needed to avoid abandonment if the issue arises when returning to the U.S. In other words, it is not enough to avoid abandonment by, for example, coming back to the U.S. every 179 days.

It is recommended that you obtain a re-entry permit (Form I-131) immediately after your first entry to the U.S. if you plan on being absent from the U.S. for a period of three months or longer and do not intend to fully relocate to the U.S. within two years.

It is advisable to apply for a re-entry permit with USCIS while you are still in the U.S. and at least 60 days before your intended date of departure.

Please note that, although there is no rule or law per se that a finding of abandonment will result after being absent from the U.S. for a specific number of months, there appears to be a trend that, when no ties to the U.S. have been established, officers are applying more scrutiny to returning CPRs/LPRs and using a three-month period of absence from the U.S. to make a finding of abandonment.

As discussed above, keep in mind that abandonment is determined using a totality of circumstances analysis.

If, upon returning to the U.S., a CBP officer finds you have abandoned your green card status, s/he will ask you to sign Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. If you want to keep your CPR/LPR status, DO NOT sign Form I-407. By signing Form I-407, you waive your right to have an immigration judge decide whether or not you have lost your green card status through abandonment. Instead, you should request a hearing before an immigration judge in immigration court, where the government will have to prove by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence that you have lost your CPR/LPR status through abandonment.

To request a hearing, you can simply express the following to the inspecting CBP officer: “I do not wish to sign Form I-407 and instead elect to have a hearing before an immigration judge to determine if I have abandoned my green card status or not.” The CBP officer can then refer you to a Deferred Inspection site, institute removal proceedings and parole you until your immigration hearing date, admit you as a nonimmigrant, or allow you to withdraw your application for admission. If removal proceedings are elected by you and instituted, the CBP officer should also issue you a temporary I-551 (green card) that allows you to work and travel until your hearing date.

You should obtain a returning resident visa (SB-1) if an unavoidable circumstance caused you to be absent from the U.S. for more than one year or more than two years if you have a re-entry permit. You should apply for a returning resident visa (SB-1) at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate while abroad and at least three months before your desired return to the U.S.

If you wish to give up your status as a Permanent Resident of the United States and surrender your green card, while abroad you may complete Form I-407, Elect Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, and bring the supporting documentation (permanent resident card and re-entry permit, if applicable) to the nearest U.S. embassy.

Once the I-407 is completed, you will revert to your previous status as a nonimmigrant and may re-apply for a visa to re-enter the United States in the future.