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Can I reclaim an old Green Card and move back to the US?

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A sample green card

"A friend of mine returned to Ireland in 1994 and surrendered her green card. She lived in the U.S. for 30 years and currently receives Social Security benefits. She is now interested in returning to the U.S. to live with her daughter and family. She would like to re-apply for her old green card enabling permanent residency. What does she need to do?”

The old green card she had cannot be reclaimed. Those who surrender their legal status cannot retrieve it at a later time.

However, from the sound of your letter it’s likely possible for your friend to apply for permanent resident status – if her daughter is an American citizen.  If your friend lived here for 30 years up until 1994 then it seems as if she gave birth here, in which case her citizen daughter could act as her sponsor.

U.S. citizens aged over 21 can sponsor a parent for a green card as an immediate relative, which eliminates the long waiting times that other family-sponsored immigrants must deal with. 

Your friend’s petition will also be made easier by the fact that her daughter will not have to provide an affidavit of support for her mother. As discussed in last week’s column, all family-based immigration petitions must be accompanied by an affidavit, a legally binding document that requires the signer to assume financial responsibility for the immigrant if he/she requires government financial assistance.

However, affidavits are not required for intending immigrants who have worked for 40 quarters (10 years) in the U.S.  As your friend was resident in the U.S. for 30 years and is receiving Social Security, it’s a safe bet to assume that she worked here for 10 of those years and paid into the system.  (If this is not the case, then her daughter would be required to supply an affidavit.)

On the off chance that your friend’s daughter is not an American citizen, then her immigration prospects change dramatically because only citizens can act as sponsors for parents.

There’s another lesson to be learned here – that is, converting permanent resident status into U.S. citizenship as soon as possible.  If your friend applied for naturalization, which after 30 years she was surely eligible to do, then obviously she wouldn’t be in the situation she’s in.

Once permanent residents become naturalized they can live abroad for as long as they like, and still have full legal status when/if they return here. Anyone sitting on the fence about become a U.S. citizen should promptly hop off it and start the process, which is fairly standard provided all the requirements are met.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has an informative portal dedicated to citizenship issues and questions from top to bottom.  Visit it at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/citizenship.

Becoming a U.S. citizen does not impact Irish citizenship in any way, as both U.S. and Irish law recognize dual citizenship.  The fear of losing Irish citizenship has held permanent residents back in the past, but that fear is not based on fact.

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