Can I lose my Lawful Permanent Resident Status for time spent outside the United States?
October 07, 2015
I know many Lawful Permanent Residents who have worked a long time to obtain their LPR status. Therefore, it is important that they do whatever they can to avoid losing it.
Certain crimes can make a person deportable from the United States. Some Legal Permanent Residents are surprised to learn that time spent outside the United States may lead to a finding that they have abandoned their Legal Permanent Resident status.
Some Residents mistakenly believe that as long as they return to the United States every six months or every year, they won’t lose their status. Others may think that a trip abroad over a year will guarantee that they lose their status. The issue is not quite so black and white.
A determination of abandonment will partially depend on whether the LPR has taken a “temporary visit abroad.” The Board of Immigration Appeals identified a guiding principle for this determination in Matter of Huang, 19 I&N Dec. 749 (BIA 1988). Does the LPR have an intention to return to the United States after a relatively short trip, fixed by an event that will occur or is likely to occur to cut short the trip?
There are several things that may help show a Legal Permanent Resident has not abandoned status. Do they file tax returns as a Resident Alien? Are their children enrolled in school in the United States? Does their close family still live in the United States Do they own property in the United States? Do they have bank accounts in the United States? Do they have a business in the United States?
If a Legal Permanent Resident is returning to the United States after an extended trip abroad, it is important that they document all of these ties and bring them with them to the Customs or Border inspection.
An LPR who plans to be outside the US for more than a year should apply for a re-entry permit. A re-entry permit may be valid for up to two years. However, the re-entry permit alone does not guarantee against a finding of abandonment, but may help as proof against such a determination.
If you are a Legal Permanent Resident who is returning from a long trip abroad and a CBP official accuses you of abandonment of your LPR status, do not agree to sign any document stating you have abandoned your resident status. Only an Immigration Judge can make this determination, and you have a right to present evidence to support your case.
Maintain as many ties as you can with the United States, and make sure you document those ties through school records, bank statements, bills, and proof of family ties. If you are going on an extended trip abroad, gather evidence to show you have fixed date when you intend to return to the United States.
Please note that this is a separate issue from continuous presence for purposes of Naturalization, although issues of abandonment may arise when a person makes an application for Naturalization. If you have been outside the United States for extended periods of time, it is best to consult with a licensed Immigration attorney before making an application for Naturalization.