“Abandonment of residency” rules are an important consequence to which Permanent Residents (PRs) are subject. Abandonment can result in loss of PR status for a legal or conditional PR who is outside of the United States for more than six months without advance permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of an approved re-entry permit. Generally, PRs are free to travel abroad, provided that the trip is “temporary.” USCIS views any absence from the United States for longer than six months as not temporary. Thus, it is advisable to obtain a re-entry permit before departure. Furthermore, USCIS may also view trips outside the United States of less than six months as not temporary where a PR works outside the United States and lacks U.S. employment.
To qualify for a re-entry permit, an applicant must prove ties to an “unrelinquished lawful permanent residence” in the United States. To determine whether these ties exist, USCIS looks at various factors, including:
- Location of family, property holdings, and jobs;
- Intention to return to the United States as a place of employment, business, or as an actual home;
- Purpose for departing from the United States; and
- Whether the visit abroad is short.
Whether or not a returning PR has a re-entry permit, he/she may be subject to increased scrutiny if an act that triggers “removal” was committed before or after departing the United States. Unlike U.S. citizens, PRs are subject to removal from the United States for the commission of certain acts, including perpetration of certain crimes, receipt of certain public benefits and misrepresentation regarding immigration status, among others. Therefore, a PR should consult an immigration attorney if he/she has been accused of any crime or if he/she plans to be outside of the United States for more than 180 days.
To file an application for a re-entry permit, a PR must be physically present within the United States. The PR can leave the United States shortly after the case is filed, but will need to return to complete biometrics. Note that a biometrics notice is generally issued four to six weeks after the case is filed. Once approved, a re-entry permit is generally valid for two years. If the PR is in conditional status (i.e. he/she has a two-year green card), the re-entry permit will be valid until the conditional permanent resident card expires. If the PR has filed an I-829 or I-751 to remove the conditions on the permanent resident card, the re-entry permit will be valid until the I-829 or I-751 receipt notice expires. If the I-829 or I-751 receipt notice is near expiration, the PR can make an Infopass appointment to receive an I-551 stamp, which will extend the PR status for another year while the I-829 or I-751 application is pending. In this case, a re-entry permit will be valid until the I-551 stamp expires.
Once issued, a re-entry permit can usually be reissued twice, covering a total of six years of absence from the U.S. A previous re-entry permit approval does not guarantee approval of subsequent applications. Additionally, each subsequent application is reviewed with more scrutiny as a PR’s intent to reside within the United States may be called into question.