Is Your Green Card in Danger?
It is very important to understand that being a lawful permanent resident is not an absolute protection from being deported from the United States. This article will inform you of the different ways that you can jeopardize your legal status and how to avoid the risk of losing your legal status. The first part of this article explains under what circumstances foreign travel may jeopardize your legal status. The next article, part two explains how criminal convictions can jeopardize your legal status.
ABANDONMENT OF STATUS
Travel outside the United States:
The risk of losing your legal status because of trips outside the United States is based on the intent you have to live permanently in the United States or abroad. An indication of abandonment are long trips abroad. Generally, the position of the US government is that if a Legal resident remains outside the United States for six months or more, it is a strong indication that the resident does not live permanently in the United States and lives permanently abroad. If the resident is abroad for a year or more, immigration considers that resident to have abandoned legal status.
A Legal resident can also be considered abandoning status if immigration realizes that the resident kept a permanent address abroad indicating that his intent was to live abroad and not in the United States, regardless of the time outside the United States. For example, if it is found that the resident kept an address as a living residence, and maintained a job abroad, and spent most or perhaps a good portion of the year in the foreign country, that resident is in danger of having immigration consider that such person abandoned his Legal residence. However, in any of these circumstances, the resident will have an opportunity to prove that Legal residency was not abandoned.
What happens if the immigration officer accuses me of abandoning my status?
When a legal resident is being charged with abandonment, one potential scenario is that the officer can try to press the legal resident to sign a document admitting that the legal resident has abandoned legal status. It may be that the officer threatens the legal resident or tries to convince the legal resident that there is no way to prove that the legal resident has not abandoned status. In that scenario, the legal resident has to be strong and not sign any document if it is not clear what the document is about and unless it is clear that the document is seeking a hearing with an immigration judge.
In the majority of cases, when officer accuses a legal resident of abandoning status and the officer is not convinced that it was not abandoned, the officer puts the legal resident in deportation/removal proceedings where the legal resident is required to see an immigration judge, and depending on the circumstances, the Government will have to prove that the legal resident abandoned status. If the Government meets the burden by providing evidence that the resident abandoned legal status, the legal resident will still have the opportunity to demonstrate to the judge that status was not abandoned. These hearings do not occur until months after the legal resident was charged usually in an immigration court located near his home in the United States.
How do I avoid a charge of abandonment?
The safest although not always guaranteed way to avoid such a charge is to avoid long trips with a duration approximating six months. Also avoid declaring to the officer that you live abroad or study or work abroad. Some types of travel of long duration considered reasonable is when a close family member is sick and you travel to take care of the family member or the it is clear or fairly clear to the immigration officer that the trip was for a specific purpose for a fixed period of time to fulfill that purpose like a business trip. Another way to avoid the accusation when facing a long trip is before traveling to apply for a permit to re-enter the United States. It is known as form I-131. However, please note that if there are other indications that you abandoned your status, this permit is no guarantee that it will fully protect you. In my opinion the best advice is to avoid trips that approach six months and obviously maintaining employment abroad. Avoid a combination of circumstances that can demonstrate that your permanent residence is abroad. For example, if you are in a situation where you own property abroad, don’t think you need to get rid of it. Only be careful not to accumulate other indications that you are domiciled or living abroad.
If I am accused of abandonment, how do I prove I did not abandon my legal status?
If you are facing an immigration officer or an immigration judge, you will normally have the opportunity to prove that you have not abandoned your status. If you can, it is important to maintain documentation that shows you keep your place of permanent residence in the United States. Evidence may include documentation demonstrating work history; history of paying taxes in the United States and documentation of transactions such as purchase items, merchandise or maintaining bank accounts, all in the United States. Any document such as a payment receipt with your name and address in the United States may end up winning your case.
Consult with an attorney.
Remember that this is a general guide. It is very important to always speak with an immigration attorney to discuss your circumstances and if it is necessary to prepare and guide you if you are facing such a situation.