Returning to the U.S. without citizenship but after a Green Card

A green card.
“I lived legally as a green card holder in the U.S. for eight years with my now wife. Regretfully, I did not apply for my U.S. citizenship before I moved home 10 years ago, but luckily my wife did. Since then we have had three kids who we obtained U.S. citizenship for.

“Three years ago I lost my job, and my wife and a friend of mine from the U.S. sponsored me for a green card.  I got the green card and went to the U.S. for a month to get work, but I was not successful in my job search as the recession was on.

“When I returned to Ireland I did get a job. I returned to the U.S. six months later for one week. I did plan to move to the U.S., but due to my father being ill there was never a good time.

“Recently we've being seriously thinking of moving back to the U.S. as things seem to be getting worse here and our kids will likely emigrate anyway.   What are my options regarding my green card? Will I be stopped because inspectors will think that I abandoned the green card?

“I have filed U.S. taxes for the past three years as has my wife and have I have U.S. bank accounts, statements and a valid U.S. driver’s license.   I was thinking of a re-entry permit but apparently you have to apply for that in the U.S.

“It is a big deal to move back to the U.S. with three kids. I’m afraid to leave my job here and be refused entry. Someone suggested getting into the U.S. on a holiday visa and not use my green card to avoid hassle. But I think that down the line it will cause me hassle. What should I do?”

AS you correctly point out at the end of your letter, entering the U.S. on a holiday visa or visa waiver would be a huge mistake given your aspiration of living here permanently. Don’t even think of doing that because it will negatively impact your future U.S. naturalization case (presumably this time, you’ll apply for citizenship as soon as you become eligible.)

The good news is that you will eventually be able to return to the U.S., and it could be sooner rather than later depending on how your situation is handled.

There’s a chance that you may be eligible for what’s known as a returning resident visa. These once-off visas are given to eligible permanent residents (green card holders) who have remained outside the U.S. for more than one year due to extenuating circumstances, but always had the intention to return.  If the visa is issued, it allows the permanent resident to return to the U.S. and resume legal residence here.

Before going further, the application process for a returning resident visa can often be difficult in cases like yours, so it’s imperative that if you proceed, you do so with a skilled U.S. immigration attorney.

The fee will be money well spent if you are successful, and the time saved will be substantial.

The fact that you paid U.S. taxes while living in Ireland will stand in your favor as it shows your desire to maintain permanent ties with the U.S. Difficulties associated with the recession and the illness of your father will also be taken into account when U.S. Embassy officials examine your application.
However, the longer someone remains outside the U.S., the harder it becomes to prove that the intent was always to return here – hence the necessity for proper representation.

the returning resident visa application is turned down, your wife as a U.S. citizen has the option of sponsoring you for a green card so all would not be lost.  This is an involved process as you likely know, and it could take up to a year or more to be processed.  The returning resident visa, however, can be handled from start to finish in a matter of weeks.

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