In a July column a reader who owns a green card asked about a long-term (more than one year) absence from the U.S., and how he could preserve his permanent resident status here during his time away.

We advised the person to apply for, prior to his departure, an I-131 re-entry permit from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The permit allows permanent residents to reside outside of the U.S. for up to two years without jeopardizing legal status.

While the re-entry permit allows for long-term absence, immigration attorney (and Morrison visa creator) Bruce Morrison contacted us to further point out that those holding re-entry permits must also adhere to the other requirements of permanent resident status during their time away – i.e., the maintenance of a U.S. domicile which is intended as a permanent abode, and compliance with U.S. tax law.

Permanent residents are required to complete a U.S. tax return if they are living abroad, as income earned even outside the U.S. is considered taxable and must be reported.

“I think that advice about the use of the re-entry permit (as well as questions about ‘how long can I stay out of the country if I have a green card?’) should include the caution that the green card is not a permit to enter occasionally, but a status of legal permanent resident that requires continuing, demonstrable intent to live in the U.S., not abroad. And the first question if one is confronted on that will be, ‘Can I see your tax returns?’” advises Morrison.

As usual, Morrison’s advice is unparalleled, so permanent residents with future plans to reside abroad should take note that a re-entry permit does not include a pass to forget about the obligations that all green card holders must adhere to in order to maintain their status.

H-4 Visa Work

“LAST year I received an H-1B visa to work in a company in Florida, and the job is working out very well. However, my wife is not permitted to work with the H-4 visa that she was issued. Is there any way around this, or anything that she could do to obtain employment? She worked as an executive assistant in Ireland and was great at her job.”

THE H-4 visa, which is given to spouses and minor children of H-1B visa holders, allows for legal residence in the U.S. and travel to and from the country, but as you say, it does not allow for employment.

Your wife has the option of trying to find a U.S. employer who would act as a sponsor for an employment visa of her own. The H-1B visa pretty much requires a minimum of a college degree to get started, but there are other types of employment/internship visas that may also suit her needs.

She should first find an employer willing to act as her sponsor, and then seek the advice of an immigration attorney on how to best proceed. The more unique her skills the greater the chance that she’ll find employment, but given the rash of bad news on the unemployment front, it may not be easy for her.

Is there a possibility that your U.S. employer can sponsor you for permanent residence? If that’s the case your wife would also be entitled to a green card, which would allow her to work at any job of her choosing. This is a possibility that would take at least one/two years to come to fruition, however.