Green Card Holders Successfully Return to the U.S. After Lengthy Absence


Permanent residents of the U.S. may not stay outside of the U.S. indefinitely. They are expected to timely return and limit their international travel. Here is the story of an RILG client who was outside the U.S. for more than two years. Nevertheless, she was able to avoid losing her green card due to abandonment.

Permanent residents of the United States are certainly allowed to travel outside of the country. They are free to return home to their country of birth to see family and friends, and to go on exotic vacations and see parts of the world they have always wanted to visit. But since they only have a green card and are not U.S. citizens, their travel is not unlimited. In fact, any time a green card holder spends a significant period of time outside the U.S., there is always the risk that the Dept. of Homeland Security will charge them with abandoning their permanent resident status.

Here is the story of Angela* and her family, clients of Reeves Immigration Law Group. Angela and her two children were issued their green cards in 2013. They enjoyed living in the U.S. and were excited about one day becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. Before they actually applied though, they decided to take a vacation to the Philippines, which is where they were all born. They were understandably thrilled to go home and see family and friends. But their timing was terrible!

Angela and her family left the U.S. near the end of 2019 . . . shortly before COVID turned all of our lives upside down. They were unable to timely return because of lockdowns, cancelled flights, and of course fears that we all had as we dealt with this horrible public health crisis. So to be as safe as possible, Angela and her children remained in the Philippines.

As time passed though, and as COVID was continuing to get worse, Angela started to get really scared about losing her green card. She had no intention of abandoning her life in the U.S. After all, they had work and school, and new family and friends here. And at the time they left the U.S, they truly thought they were just going on a short vacation.

Thankfully, Angela decided to reach out to Reeves Immigration Law Group. She spoke with Attorney Flomy J. Diza, a Senior Partner of the firm. Attorney Diza and Angela had a long discussion about “abandonment of permanent resident status” and how it applies. However, he also devised a strategy for Angela and her children to safely return to the U.S.

Attorney Diza and Angela initially discussed an “SB-1” Visa, which a green card holder may apply for at a U.S. Embassy after they have been outside the U.S. for an extended period of time. However, Attorney Diza told Angela that, based on the experience and expertise he has with SB-1 Visas, especially in Manila since COVID has affected our lives, he did not think an SB-1 Visa was appropriate in her case.

Rather, Attorney Diza preferred that Angela and her children attempt to return to the U.S. with their valid green cards. Attorney Diza knew this would still be a challenge, so he prepared a detailed legal brief for Angela to present to Customs and Border Protection upon her arrival in the U.S. This legal brief discussed abandonment and when it is appropriate. And crucially, it is also provided specific reasons why Angela and her children should NOT be found to have abandoned their green cards.

We are happy to say that Angela and her children were allowed to return to the U.S. without issue. Attorney Diza’s legal brief, in conjunction with Angela being prepared to advocate for herself, resulted in the family returning home to the U.S. without being charged with abandonment.


*Please note that we have changed our client’s name to protect her privacy.


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