Lawful Permanent Residence
If you have lawful permanent resident status (a green card) in the United States, the most important point to know is that it is NOT permanent. If you have gone through the time and expense of obtaining permanent residence in the United States, probably the only way you want to lose your LPR status is through obtaining United States citizenship. Citizenship is the only permanent, secure status in the United States. Absent unusual circumstances, you should consider permanent resident status (having a green card) as a step towards your US citizenship, rather than as your final goal.
LPR's (green card holders) are put in removal proceedings (deportation proceedings) every day, charged with being removable from the United States. This can happen, for example, when a green card holder is convicted of a crime, stays out of the country for too long, or when something goes wrong at the interview for naturalization / citizenship. This situation is devastating to the individual and the family members.
Our Colorado immigration lawyers at Saltrese deSeguin llc are caring, knowledgeable in immigration law, experienced in prosecuting applications for green cards / permanent residence and naturalization / citizenship, and tough and talented in defending green card holders who are placed in removal or deportation proceedings. For excellent legal representation from an exceptional Colorado immigration lawyer, call 303-442-8554 for our Boulder office or 303-557-0725 for our office in Lakewood, Colorado.
Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status:
An absence from the US of more than six months raises a rebuttable presumption that an green card holder intends to abandon permanent resident status. A green card holder who has been absent from the U.S. frequently or for an extended period of time may be questioned at the port of entry and asked to prove that he or she has not abandoned permanent residence status. The Port of Entry official can find an intent to abandon residence even on absences less than 180 days based on your pattern of travel. To prove you have had a continuous, uninterrupted intent to return to the United States, you will need to show that you have maintained extensive ties to this country (filing US tax returns, employment in the United States, property in the US, presence of family members in the United States, active US bank accounts, etc). If the official at the port-of-entry is not convinced, you will be issued a Notice to Appear for immigration court and will have to establish the maintenance of LPR status before an immigration judge.
The DHS takes the position that you have conclusively abandoned your permanent residence if you have been absent from the United States for one year or more and is likely to place you in deportation proceedings if aware of such an absence.
In many cases, abandonment issues can be avoided by careful planning in advance with an immigration attorney. None-the-less, if you or a family member are facing a charge of having abandoned your lawful permanent resident status, the immigration lawyers at Saltrese Faville DeSeguin llc are experienced at defending permanent residents in removal proceedings.
[A common misconception is that a green card holder can maintain resident status by returning to the United States once per year for a visit, while indefinitely maintaining his or her primary residence and financial ties abroad. Permanent residence status is meant for individuals who intend to have their permanent residence in the United States, not for individuals who intend to travel regularly for visits to the United States. If stopped and questioned at the Port of Entry, an individual using the permanent resident card only to facilitate travel to the United States is likely to be charged with abandonment.]
The Lawful Permanent Resident and the Naturalization Process: What can go wrong?
When you apply for naturalization, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service does a thorough background check including checking for arrests, convictions, and your complete immigration history. As a result of this extensive background check, the USCIS may not only deny your application for citizenship, but it may also have you placed in removal proceedings (formerly deportation proceedings). This outcome seems to be happening more frequently now than in the past, perhaps due in part to better informational databases available to USCIS officials.1 During the naturalization process and the background investigation, the USCIS may discover an old criminal conviction that makes you subject to deportation, may form the opinion that you obtained your green card through fraud and are therefore subject to deportation, may discover that you were ineligible for permanent residence when it was granted and are thereby subject to deportation, may find information that you have made a false claim of being a United States citizen or illegally voted in an election and are therefore subject to deportation. An experienced immigration lawyer can inform you not only of any risks that you might be facing if you apply for naturalization, but can also advise you on whether you would have any legal avenues of relief from deportation if you were placed in removal proceedings.
1 Due to the enhanced databases available at ports of entry, substantial risk of being placed in removal proceedings also exists for a lawful permanent resident with any criminal conviction when he or she returns from a trip abroad.