“I received my green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen. I have held it for a year. What I’d like to do now is return to Ireland, at least for the foreseeable future. Is there a way that I can hand my green card to the U.S. government, and claim it back again whenever I might need it? I had heard that this is possible.”
What you heard is most definitely incorrect. Green cards cannot be used at the holder’s discretion.
Your question leaves a few areas unanswered. You say you’ve had a green card for a year via marriage to a U.S. citizen. Was your card issued conditionally for a two-year period, which would have been the case if your marriage was less than two years old at the time of you approval?
If so, you and your wife will have to apply to have the condition removed, and your status made permanent, within the 90 day period prior to the expiration of your present green card. This is something you need to bear in mind when making travel plans, as your green card, and the permanent resident status it confers, will no longer be valid if the condition is not removed.
Permanent residents of the U.S. are required by law to maintain a primary residence in the country, and to comply with tax laws. However, there are provisions in the law to account for green card holders who wish to leave the country for an extended period of time – i.e., for more than a year.
If you’re planning on being in Ireland for more than a year, you should apply for a re-entry permit prior to your departure. This permit, called an I-131, is available through application from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and, again, it must be applied for while you’re still in the country.
The I-131 will keep your permanent resident status valid for a two-year absence from the U.S. At that time you’ll have to return, and if you need more time away you can apply to have the I-131 renewed for a further two years.
Information about the application process, and all relevant paperwork, can be found at www.uscis.gov. The application fee is $305.
All permanent residents planning on departing the U.S. should absolutely avail of the I-131. One never knows when a green card may come in handy again, and as we all know, obtaining one is extremely, extremely difficult.