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How to Maintain your Green Card?

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 Brown PC 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 Brown PC 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.