“My parents lived and worked in America for a number of years, and I got a green card as a result. My parents then moved back to Ireland to raise me and I am now 20 years old. I was only a baby when I got this card and it expired in 2005.
“As I've only found this out recently, and because I was only a child with no control over the matter, I was wondering if it would be possible for me to renew or get a new green card? I'm hoping to move to America to live and work.
“I have an unrestricted Social Security number and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a job in America with this? Do many employers just accept a valid Social Security number? Would it be very difficult for me to get another green card? I've never had trouble with the law and have made visits to the U.S.”
There's a possibility that your expired green card could be reclaimed, but as you’ve since entered the U.S. as a temporary visitor instead of a permanent resident it will be difficult to lay claim to it.
Permanent resident status means exactly that – the holder must make the U.S. the primary place of residence in addition to complying with a number of other regulations, including U.S. tax laws.
When a permanent resident departs the U.S. for more than a year, immigration law can consider this an abandonment of status. In the case of your parents, there’s no question that their status is null and void at this point given the number of years they’ve been outside the U.S. – a decision that was their choice to make.
But in your situation, as you say, you were only a child when they decided to depart the U.S. and return to Ireland to live full-time. The argument could be made that you did not abandon your permanent resident status in the U.S. because you didn’t have the capacity to do so, given your age.
Now that you are an adult, you could claim that you’ve made the decision to live and work in the U.S.
You could file for a returning resident (SB-1) visa at the American Embassy in Dublin.
“A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa to a legal permanent resident who remained outside the U.S. due to circumstances beyond his/her control,” the embassy’s website advises.
“The central issue, however, is whether or not you have continuously maintained an intention to remain a resident of the United States. A mere statement of intent to remain a resident is not sufficient. Rather, in reviewing the case, the consular officer will analyze facts which indicate this intent.”
Because of the complexity of your case, and as the stakes are so high – legal residence here as opposed to starting from scratch – you should make a point to enlist a qualified U.S. immigration attorney who can map a strategy for the retention of your green card.
Applying for a returning resident visa on your own without any advice, especially as you’ve made visits to the U.S. since you and your parents departed, should not be a consideration.
If the returning resident petition is approved, you will be admitted to the U.S. as a legal permanent resident. Be advised that prior to approval you’ll be called for an interview at the embassy, and you’ll also have to have a physical exam.
Do employers hire here using only Social Security numbers? Yes, but it’s extremely difficult for them to do so as a valid working visa is first and foremost required by law. You are severely limiting your options here without legal status.
And yes, obtaining another green card would be very tough, which is why you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to fight for the one you already have.