By Emily Neumann - Attorney, Reddy & Neumann, P.C.
The path to permanent residency is often a long one and the immigration journey is not always smooth sailing. Once a person becomes a permanent resident, therefore it is important to be aware of the responsibilities of green card holders as well as some of the common mistakes that could lead to abandonment or cancelation.
1) While it should be obvious, Permanent Residents must obey all laws of the city, state and country. Criminal activity can result in a trip to immigration court and make a person removable from the United States.
2) Green Card holders must also file income tax returns and report all income to the Internal Revenue Service, even if the income was earned outside the U.S. A person who fails to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States may be found to have abandoned the green card. The same would be true if a person declares him or herself as a “nonimmigrant” on any income tax returns. A non-resident return, Form 1040 NR should not be filed.
3) Permanent Residents should never claim to be a U.S. citizen, either in writing or verbally, and should not vote in any election which requires U.S. citizenship
4) Men aged 18 through 25 must register with the Selective Service.
5) Residents must be careful regarding the length of trips outside the United States. A move to another country could lead the Immigration Service to believe that the green card holder intends to live elsewhere permanently and has abandoned the green card.
Generally, travel in and out of the United States is acceptable as long as the trips are for less than 6 months in a year. Many people wrongly believe that simply returning to the United States once a year for several weeks is enough. However, if the Immigration Service suspects that a person is not actually living in the United States, the green card could be canceled. For any trip of six months or more, it is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney. Not only can long trips have a negative impact on the green card, they can also impact a person’s eligibility for U.S. citizenship. In general, to be eligible to become a citizen, a green card holder must be physically present in the United States for at least two and a half years out of the previous five years. For an individual who became a permanent resident based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the physical presence requirement reduces to one and a half years out of the previous three years.
If long trips are on the horizon, before making travel plans, consider whether a reentry permit is needed to avoid abandoning the green card. The reentry permit must be filed before leaving the country and should be obtained for trips longer than one year. If the stay outside the U.S. is for more than two years after issuance of a reentry permit, a returning resident visa must be obtained. Even if a reentry permit or returning resident visa is obtained, the Immigration Service can still question whether the person actually intends to stay permanently in the U.S. The Immigration Service may inquire into family ties to the U.S., ownership of real estate, activity in bank accounts, ties to the community, the purpose of the stay outside the U.S., etc. Therefore, documentation which may help establish that the permanent residence was not abandoned should be kept on hand.
Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.
In a press conference on August 9th, President Obama said he was certain the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill could pass on the floor in the House. The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June would greatly increase the number of employment-based visas, benefiting citizens of one nation in particular – India.
Currently, the number of employment-based green cards is uniformly capped for each individual country to seven percent of the total 140,000 cards available. For India, with a booming population of professionals with advanced degrees and experience in high tech fields such as computer science and engineering, the seven percent cap has created a backlog that can keep Indians waiting 14 years for a green card.
Though Indians are now allowed to exceed the seven percent cap when visas in EB-1 and EB-2 go unused by other countries, the additional visas are too few and do little to ease waiting times. Indians are getting approximately 30,000 employment-based green cards each year out of the 140,000 available worldwide according to the Office of Immigration Statistics. Under the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June, those applying for a green card under EB-1 would no longer count towards the total number of green cards given each year. This would allow 20,000 more green cards to be allotted for EB-2 and 20,000 more for EB-3. The seven percent cap to any single nation would also be removed, greatly alleviating the backlog of Indians waiting in a decade-long line. Further, family members of an applicant will no longer count against the quota in each category. Only a single green card, one for the primary applicant, would count against the quota. This means that the number of visas granted could increase to around 150,000 in each category.
The bill also exempts anyone who has earned a Master’s degree or higher from a United States university in the field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from the employment-based immigration visa caps. There could be a total of approximately 25,000 new visas available under the STEM degree exception. Finally, the new bill would recapture all unused employment-based visas from 1992 to the present. During the 90’s and early 2000’s, an estimated 400,000 green cards went unused each year because of processing delays and the seven percent cap. The recapture could effectively lead to an additional 1,000,000 visas becoming available with no per-country caps. India stands to greatly benefit from the proposed changes to employment-based immigration.
Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.