“I want to go home on a visit, but I am a little apprehensive as the only stamp I have in my passport is the one entering the U.S. with a tourist visa in 2008. I am afraid that if I went home and came back to the U.S., I wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter even though I have a valid green card. What do you think I should do?”
It depends on what your long-term intentions are, and judging from your letter, it seems as if you want to make the U.S. your permanent base.
You likely realize that you are lucky to have had your green card renewed (green cards expire every 10 years and have to be replaced with the current model), given the many years you spent outside the country. Given this reality, it is important to exercise great caution when it comes to travel.
According to immigration attorney Bruce Morrison – the former congressman who your green card is named after thanks to his leading role in securing passage of the Morrison visa program – you would be well advised not to travel outside the U.S. at this time., as your 2008 U.S. entry using a visa waiver would be on record.
Permanent residents who reside outside of the U.S. for such a long time are normally considered to have abandoned their residence and, thus, their legal status. However, you were a minor when you first lived here and returned to Ireland in 1996.
A minor (defined as being under age 18) under parental control is not responsible for his actions under U.S. immigration law. Therefore, the time you spent in Ireland until your 18th birthday would not be considered as an abandonment of U.S. residence by you, as your parents were the ones calling the shots on where your family would live.
Your letter indicates that you are 26-27 years old, and that you were, let’s say, 24 when you returned in 2008. Therein lies a problem – the six-year period between your 18th birthday and your decision to return here at 24.
That time period, Morrison points out, could be considered an abandonment of permanent residence by you, because it took you so long to return here. However, all is not lost.
“Lawful permanent resident status is a matter of intention, not just location, so he can demonstrate that he always intended to reside in the U.S.,” advises Morrison.
How to do this? Stay put inside the U.S. for the next few years, and comply with U.S. tax laws for starters. Morrison also advises that you seek the advice of an immigration attorney to formulate a plan if a case of abandonment was ever brought against you by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
You undoubtedly know how fortunate you are to have the renewed green card, so it’s important that you take every precaution to safeguard it.
Permanent residents who wish to leave the U.S. for more than one year should apply for an I-131 re-entry permit with USCIS prior to leaving. This document allows the holder to remain outside the country for up to two years, without jeopardizing the validity of the green card.