This week I heard from Michael who has been residing back in Galway for a number of years. He had a green card when he lived here in the 1980’s, but has not been back in the US for five (5) years. He wondered if he could return to the US and ‘renew’ his green card.
There are a number of ways in which a permanent resident alien can lose legal status, and staying outside of the US for extended periods of time is one of those ways. Once lost legal permanent residency (LPR) or ‘green card’ status can be regained only be beginning the immigrant visa application process over again.
Loss of legal status
After you become a permanent resident, you must demonstrate at the time of any re-entry that your trip outside the US was temporary and that you are returning to your un-abandoned primary residence. If you remain outside the US for a lengthy period of time or engage in activities which indicate that your permanent residence is no longer within the US, the USCIS may consider you to have voluntarily abandoned your US residency and deny your entry. Absences of six (6) months or more is likely to draw major scrutiny.
Some people think that they can retain their LPR status by brief trips into the US each year: This is not true. If your actual permanent residence is not in the US, you have abandoned your immigration status in the US.
The factors which may determine how temporary your trips outside the US were may include the following:
• Is your actual home and place of employment in the US?
• Did you have a definite temporary reason to travel abroad?
• Did you expect to return to the US within a relatively short period of time?
• Are you returning to the US when expected? If not, what circumstances caused you to spend additional time abroad? Were these circumstances within your control?
• Where are your family ties, property, business affiliations etc?
• Have you filed US resident tax returns?
Michael lacked any legal options to ‘renew’ his old green card. Fortunately in his case, his US citizen son here in Boston can re-file an alien relative petition to bring him back to the US. If all goes well and if approved, Michael could be back here as a legal resident in a year or so.
Beware of scams and bad advice
We see scam artists preying on vulnerable people charging fees promising to get immigrants “to the front of the line.” We also know of cases where people charged immigrants large sums of money to file applications which were never going to be approved at USCIS. Michael who contacted me on the case above this week told me a Florida based attorney filed a form to ‘renew’ his green card. He paid thousands of dollars to the person. The filing was entirely inappropriate since the card was already expired and technically invalid in the eyes of USCIS since Michael had been residing outside of the US several years.
Free Legal & Immigration Clinic - October
Our next legal clinic will be on October 1, 2013 at the Banshee, 934 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester at 6:30 pm in Dorchester. Immigration attorneys Chris Lavery and Dan Harrington will be present for one to one consultations with people. If you are coming to the clinic on an immigration issue, it is useful to bring passports, visas, visa application, and court records if readers have any relevant to their case. Feel free to email me at the address above if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained in it is provided to inform generally, and is not intended as a substitute for individual advice. Immigration law is subject to frequent changes and individual circumstances can affect the application of certain legal provisions. For individual legal advice, please contact the Irish Pastoral Centre directly regarding upcoming legal clinics or consultation with an immigration attorney.