Understand What Circumstances Can Lead to a Finding of Abandonment
Failure to maintain residency can lead DHS to find that an LPR has abandoned their residency status and can result in the LPR being denied entry to the United States, placed in removal proceedings, and losing LPR status altogether. LPRs are most likely to have problems reentering the United States when they have been gone for a continuous period of six months or longer. They may also have problems if they have taken a series of longer trips abroad broken by relatively brief stays in the United States, even if they did not make any single overseas trip of six months or more. For example, an LPR who makes a series of five-month trips overseas while returning to the United States for only two weeks in between each trip may raise DHS's suspicions that he or she is really residing abroad and only visiting the United States. Generally speaking, occasional vacations or business trips of fewer than six months are not a problem.
Apply for a Reentry Permit
A reentry permit is considered evidence of an LPR's intent to return to the United States, and it can be used with a green card to ease the entry of an LPR who has been out of the United States for a long period of time. LPRs planning to be outside the United States for a continuous period of more than a year must have a reentry permit to be readmitted to the United States. Although not required, LPRs planning to be outside the United States for six months or more may want to apply for a reentry permit before their departure, as additional proof of their intent. LPRs must be in the United States when they apply for a reentry permit and must stay, or plan to return, to have their fingerprints taken at a biometrics appointment. They may leave immediately after the biometrics appointment as the permit may be mailed to the applicant abroad when issued.
Have a Clear Plan to Return to the United States
Although a reentry permit is evidence of an LPR's intent to maintain his or her residency, it is no guarantee that DHS will find the LPR to have done so. Therefore, LPRs planning an extended trip abroad should do more than apply for a reentry permit. They should also have a clear plan to return to the United States at a specified time. This does not mean they must plan to return by a date certain. But their trip should have a specific goal, and their departure should be fixed by a definite event. Caring for a sick relative abroad is one example. Although the LPR does not know the exact date he or she will return, the trip is for a specific purpose (caring for the relative), and when that purpose ends the LPR will return to the United States.
Document the Purpose of Your Trip and Your Intent to Return
Finally, LPRs should carefully document the purpose of their trip abroad and their intent to maintain their residency in the United States. LPRs should always file federal, state, and local tax returns as a resident, unless they do not have enough income to file. If possible, LPRs should also maintain a home and a job in the United States and document this by bringing a current employment letter, rent statements, lease, deed, or mortgage statements with them when they travel. LPRs not able to maintain a home or job in the United States should at least attempt to maintain some property in the United States, such as bank accounts, and bring evidence of this when they travel. Evidence that immediate family members, like the LPR's spouse and children, have stayed in the United States during the LPR's trip also helps establish the LPR's intent to maintain residency.
Be Prepared for More Rigorous Questioning from U.S. Border Officials on Return
LPRs returning to the United States after a long absence should realize that, even if they have a reentry permit and documentation of their continuing ties to the United States, DHS may question them more extensively than usual at reentry. They must be ready to clearly explain the purpose of their extended trip abroad and to present the documentation establishing that they have maintained their residency in an organized manner.
(C) 2009 Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.
The materials contained in this guide have been prepared by Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. for informational purposes only and are not legal advice or counsel.