Written by attorney Craig Randall Shagin

Things You Must Know After You Acquire The "Green Card"

ere are several things you need to know to protect your lawful permanent resident status ("Green Card")

1. Traveling

If you are outside the United States for more than six months, but less than a year you would be subject to inspection as an alien when you return.

If you remain outside the United States for one year or more, you would be excludable unless you obtained a returning resident visa at the consulate while overseas, or filed for and obtained a Re-entry Permit from USCIS before you left the United States. (The returning resident visa may be difficult to obtain because the consul must be satisfied that you could not have foreseen the need to remain outside the United States a year or more.)

Loss of permanent residence may occur if any one of the following occurs: you accept a job abroad, you fail to file a US resident tax return, you stay outside the United States for more than one year without a valid re-entry permit, or you are otherwise found to have abandoned your residence in the United States. Taking a permanent job overseas, or a job for an indefinite term, can create problems, but a clearly temporary job that is for a specific and relatively short period of time may be acceptable.

In determining whether you have abandoned residence, USCIS will consider a number of factors, which bear on your intent to reside in the United States. These include the amount of time you have spent in the United States, where you are working, whether your trips abroad are clearly temporary in purpose, what your ties are to the United States, the existence of a home in the United States, your payment (or failure to pay) taxes as a resident of the United States, your ownership of property, and the reasons for your trips abroad. Should you plan any extensive time abroad, it would be advisable to seek preliminary advice.

2. Other Way To Lose Status

Even though you have a “green card," you can be deported from the United States if you:

  1. Have been convicted of certain (even minor) criminal offenses;

  2. Knowingly encouraged or aided someone to enter the United States illegally;

  3. Failed to notify the Immigration Service of a change of address;

  4. Engaged in espionage, sabotage, or terrorist activities.

  5. Claimed to be a United States Citizen or voting in an election in the United States

  6. Failed to make a Conditional Status permanent.

You may also lose your status if you were ineligible to obtain that status in the first place. This can happen if USCIS discovers that you misrepresented yourself or any of your documents at the time you obtained permanent residence. You may also be found to be ineligible for permanent residence if you separated from your spouse or the employer who petitioned for you shortly after obtaining your status, and the Immigration Service finds that you did not intend to live with your spouse, or work for your employer, at the time you became a permanent resident.

If your green card is only valid for two years from the date of issuance, then you are a conditional resident and required to file an application to remove conditional resident restrictions prior to second anniversary of your approval for permanent residence. You will be deportable if you fail to file this application on time.

Taxes: Every permanent resident of the United States is a U.S. tax resident. As such, you are required to pay U.S. taxes on all your income—worldwide. Your failure to pay taxes can result in a finding that you have abandoned your permanent residence, even if you can legitimately claim non-resident status under a tax treaty. You are also liable for state income taxes.

The Military: The United States does not currently have a draft; however, all men age 18 to 26 are required to register for Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday, or within 30 days of the time they become permanent residents of the United States. If you become a permanent resident before your 26th birthday, you are required to register for Selective Service. If you have a son who holds a “green card" or is a U.S. citizen, he is required to register within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Notwithstanding the fact that you have registered with the Selective Service, you may be exempt from military service based on your nationality. However, claiming such exemption could disqualify you from citizenship. Failure to register will also bar you from U.S. citizenship.

How to Register for the Draft: You may complete your Selective Service Registration at any U.S. Post Office. The form is a simple postcard type document.

Notify Service of Change of Address: If you move, you are required to report your new address to the USCIS District Office within 10 days.Failure to report your address is a ground for deportation. The correct form for entering your change of address is Form AR-11, available on the Internet at

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