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The Myth of “Permanent” Resident Status

  • By Nathaniel S.
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A new Green Card is in many ways like a new car. It looks shiny, smells freshly manufactured, and signals newfound mobility.


However, Permanent Residency is a misleading term. The Green Card is in fact only a symbol of a person’s status as a Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) of the United States. It is the obligation of every LPR to maintain this status. If the status is not maintained, then it may be considered “abandoned.” Below are a couple of the most common misconceptions about Permanent Residency.


Myth 1: The card is what matters. As long as a person possesses an unexpired Green Card, he or she is an LPR of the United States, and can travel freely to and from the US.


This myth is false, and relying upon it can lead to serious and expensive consequences. This is especially important for Green Card holders residing outside the United States. US passport holders can leave the US, live abroad for a few years, and return as they please. But the Green Card is not equivalent to a US passport. Green Card holders are strictly limited in terms of how much time they can spend outside the US before they must return. If they do not abide by the rules, they can lose their Green Card, even if the card is still within its validity dates. Put another way, the card is not what matters. Rather, the status that the card represents is what matters.


Now we know that it is the Green Card holder’s responsibility to preserve his or her LPR status. How does one go about doing this? There are misconceptions regarding this too. Below is a common one.


Myth 2: Visiting the US every six months ensures that your Green Card will remain valid until its expiration date.


Not so!


This myth likely originates from the rules surrounding long stays of LPRs outside of the US. It is true that Green Card holders are subject to enhanced scrutiny if they remain outside the US for periods longer than six months. But this does not mean that absences shorter than six months avoid any scrutiny.


How do LPRs maintain their status? The general rule is that Green Card holders must live in the US. For Green Card holders who need to be outside the US for long periods of time, a Re-Entry Permit will help show that they have not abandoned their status. Re-entry Permits are a useful tool for preserving LPR status, and for avoiding the much more time-consuming and costly option of the Returning Resident (SB-1) Visa.


It is tragic when someone invests time, energy, and money to obtain a Green Card, only to have it invalidated because of “abandonment” due to long absences from the US. As with most avoidable legal disasters, the best preventative measure is discussing your specific situation with an experienced attorney as early in the process as possible. This is the best way to ensure your Green Card remains the tool for mobility it was designed to be.



All said and explained in this article does not constitute a legal opinion and does not replace legal advice. Responsibility for using the wordings and opinions conveyed in this article relies solely and entirely on the reader.

This article was written by Dotan Cohen Law Offices, working in the field of immigration law in the United States, Canada, Australia and England.


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