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Ways to Maintain Lawful Permanent Residency for Green Card Holders

What Green Card Holders Outside the United States

Can Do to Maintain their Lawful Permanent Residency

As international travel continues to become more restricted, many United States green card holders find it difficult or even impossible to comply with the requirements of maintaining lawful permanent residency. This is largely due to the fact that many lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) who are outside the United States have been unable to return to the country. Typically, this is either because there are no flights out of their country to the US, they feel vulnerable to contracting the infection, or have unfortunately already contracted the virus.

According to current immigration law, a lawful permanent resident is permitted to leave the US for a period of up to six (6) consecutive months. Those who stay outside for longer than this given period risk facing significant issues upon reentering the US. In this scenario, it does not mean that the person ceases to be a lawful permanent resident, and it can be asserted that lawful permanent residence has not been abandoned.

If Exceeding the 180 Day Return Period

If a green card holder seeks admission to the US after being outside for more than 180 days, he or she will again be considered as an applicant seeking admission into the US under INA 101(a)(13)(C)(ii). While they may be subject to more scrutiny at the port of entry as an applicant seeking admission, they will likely not be denied admission especially if the reason for not travelling back within 180 days was due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If Outside the Country for Over a Year

If a green card holder has been out of the country for more than a year from their last departure, the green card (Form I-551) is technically rendered invalid for reentry. If the reason for not returning was related to COVID-19, the best course of action (without definitive guidance from USCIS) would be to apply for a Returning Resident (SB-1) Visa at the nearest US consulate upon its reopening to the public. Once there, the applicant would have to explain that their inability to return was due to circumstances beyond their control.

Conclusion

In light of recent events, consulates are likely to exercise more flexibility and understanding to SB-1 applicants. However, in either of the above two cases the applicant must still demonstrate that they have never abandoned permanent residence by demonstrating that they are returning from a temporary visit abroad, continued to maintain ties with the US and that they always harbored an intention to resume permanent residency. This can be done by maintaining evidence that you could not travel back to the Unites States due to the COVID-19 epidemic as well as evidence that you have maintained ties to the United States, for example:

  • Maintain a residence in the U.S. This can be evidenced through the ownership of a home or the rental of an apartment.

  • Maintain bank accounts, credit cards and investments in the U.S. to show financial ties.

  • Maintain insurance in the U.S., including home, health, and life insurance.

  • File U.S. tax returns.

  • Having utilities in the permanent resident’s name also helps, as does a driver’s license and car ownership.

At RKF Global PLLC, we are here to help our clients find the best approach to resolving their immigration matters, and we are here to answer any questions. For more information, contact Stefano Rosenberg at (312) 888-2000 or stefano.rosenberg@rkfglobal.com.

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