The path to permanent residency can be long and challenging. Once obtained, permanent resident status can provide an individual or family with a great sense of comfort.
The path to permanent residency (green card) can be long and challenging. And once obtained, permanent resident status can provide an individual or family with a great sense of comfort. With permanent resident status, an individual is entitled to live and work in the U.S., qualify for social programs and financial aid, and to travel abroad. However, the term “permanent residency” can be misleading, as the word “permanent” can give people a false sense of security.
There are multiple situations through which this status can be lost. Even when permanent residents play by the rules – obeying the law, paying their taxes, and carefully planning any trips out of the U.S. – things can go wrong. It’s not uncommon for a “permanent” resident to return from a trip abroad, only to have the Department of Homeland Security allege that they abandoned their permanent resident status. This is not surprising when a permanent resident has one or more extended absences from the U.S.
What Is A Permanent Resident?
A U.S. lawful permanent resident is someone who has the right to live in the U.S. indefinitely. Being a permanent resident entitles a person to the following:
- You are making the U.S. your permanent residence.
- You are eligible to work in the US.
- You are qualified for social programs and financial aid.
- You can travel abroad.
- You can petition your close family relatives (such as your spouse and unmarried children) to receive permanent residence and join you in the US.
The Six-Month And One-Year Marks
Once permanent residency has been granted, the intent to remain in the U.S. becomes paramount to avoid a finding of abandonment. Although leaving the U.S. is permitted, trips that are too frequent or too long may present an issue.
Generally, absences of less than six months will fall under the radar if they are not particularly frequent and the permanent resident has strong ties to the U.S. Problems may arise, however, beyond the six-month mark. Absences of between six months and one year are suspect, but may still be permitted depending on their frequency, reason for travel, etc. However, trips outside of the U.S. for one year or more are of special concern. Returning to the U.S. following an absence of more than one year may be difficult, as the permanent resident is considered to have abandoned their status.
The Rules Of Intent
Intent plays an important role in determining whether someone abandoned his or her permanent resident status. It is crucial to be proactive about proving intent; waiting until permanent residency has been challenged may prove ineffective. It is also often unsuccessful to simply tell U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that your intent all along was to timely return to the U.S. and maintain your permanent resident status.
The Impermanence Of Permanence
There are many ways in which you can lose your permanent resident status. If, for example, you obtained “conditional permanent resident status” based on marriage or a qualifying investment, your status may be terminated if you committed fraud at any point in the process. You can also lose permanent status by committing a criminal offense. However, abandoning your permanent status is another issue altogether. Any of the following situations may result in an assumption of abandonment:
- Moving abroad with the intent to remain in the other country permanently.
- A lengthy absence from the U.S., unless your absence was intended to be temporary.
- Failing to file U.S. income taxes while living abroad.
- Declaring on your tax returns that you are a “nonimmigrant.”
Voluntarily Abandoning Permanent Resident Status
There are plenty of reasons why you may want to voluntarily abandon your permanent resident status. Here are a few:
- You want to return to your home country: Perhaps you worked in the U.S. for a few years, and now you want to return to your home country. Perhaps you’re looking to retire somewhere you can be closer to family.
- You want permanent residence somewhere else: Perhaps you no longer want to live in the US. You may have gotten a job opportunity that requires you to move abroad permanently. You may want to stay closer to friends and family that are not in the US. Or maybe you’re looking to marry someone who wants to live abroad. Wanting to be a permanent resident in another country would require you to abandon your U.S. LPR status.
- You don’t want to pay taxes: U.S. lawful permanent residents are obligated to pay taxes to the U.S. government, and you may no longer want to.
How Do I Abandon My Permanent Resident Status?
A Form I-407 is required to abandon your permanent resident status. You need to file this form at the correct USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office and ask to officially revoke your green card status.
Form I-407 must be completed and signed by the person who wants to voluntarily abandon their green card status. A person other than yourself may sign this form only under the following circumstances:
1. The resident is under 14 years of age. If the person is under 14 years old, Form I-407 must be signed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian must present proof that the resident is under 14 years of age.
2. The resident is incapable of completing and signing the form on their own due to a physical disability. In this case, the resident should give official consent that they are allowing their legal guardian to sign on behalf of them.
What Are The Requirements For Form I-407?
1. Form I-407, completed and signed following the instructions provided by the USCIS
2. Permanent Resident Card, also known as a green card
3. All pertinent USCIS-issued documents, booklets, and cards
Since you are abandoning your permanent residence in the U.S., the USCIS needs to destroy all evidence that could indicate otherwise. All identification documents and relevant paraphernalia issued by USCIS must be surrendered.
In the event that you cannot surrender documents or cards issued by the USCIS, you have to provide a reason as to why (for example, in the event of a lost green card).
Where Can I Get Form I-407?
You can find the form and instructions on how to fill out this form at the USCIS website.
You must use black ink to fill out the form. All answers must be accurate and honest. Remember to write legibly and put in your signature where it is required. USCIS rejects all unsigned forms.
You must also write your Alien Registration Number (A-Number) at the top right-hand corner of each page of the form.
How Much Do I Pay To File Form I-407?
There is no filing fee to the form itself, but you do need to pay the required fee for postage.
What happens after I submit the I-407 and it has been approved?
This act is considered irrevocable and cannot be undone. You would now require a visa to travel to the U.S. (or not, depending on your country of residence). You would also need to carry the USCIS’s response to your I-407 application whenever you visit the U.S.
However, this does not mean that you are no longer eligible for applying for lawful permanent residence in the future. Should you decide to reapply, you have to begin from square one. There is also no telling on whether or not you’ll be reapproved in the future.
If you are considering being outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, it is highly recommended that you speak with an immigration attorney about a Re-Entry Permit. Or, if you have already been outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time and are concerned about whether you will be permitted to return with only your green card, you may want to inquire about a Returning Resident Visa. Otherwise, you may risk your permanent resident status being deemed abandoned.
Alternatively, you may also be considering voluntarily surrendering your green card. This decision should be thoroughly considered before taking any action, as this could have long-lasting implications. Remember, this process cannot be undone, and you may not be granted permanent residence again if you reapply in the future.
If you’re unsure and want to get legal counsel, get in touch with us today.