November 29, 2019

Options to consider for LPRs leaving the U.S.

Foreign nationals who immigrate to the United States often endure long processing times and sometimes overcome tricky issues prior to receiving what they covet, U.S. Permanent Residence. This status is formalized when the individual receives their Green Card, a document evidencing their Lawful Permanent Resident status in the United States.

As can happen in life, the individual’s circumstances may change after they receive their Green Card. For example, let’s assume the individual is offered an employment opportunity in Europe pursuant to a two-year contract with the prospective employer. The individual wishes to pursue this opportunity, as it will help advance their career and allow them to experience a new culture. But the individual ultimately wishes to return to the United States, which they view as their permanent home.

In this scenario, the individual should consider two options with the advice of an immigration lawyer. The first would be a Form I-131 Re-entry permit. A re-entry permit establishes that you did not intend to abandon your Green Card, and it allows you to apply for admission to the United States after traveling abroad for up to 2 years, returning as a permanent resident. As a note, individuals who continuously reside outside of the U.S. for a period of 1 year or more, without a re-entry permit, are deemed to have voluntarily abandoned their green card.

A second option to consider would be a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The availability of this option would depend on how long the individual has resided in the U.S. as a permanent resident, and whether they can remain a permanent resident while the application is in process. If successful, the individual would become a citizen of the United States. Unlike permanent residents, U.S. citizens will not be deemed to have abandoned their status, regardless of how many years they have been absent from the country.

Finally, in the case of a permanent resident departing the U.S. who has no intent to return to the country, it may be advisable to file Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. This action is irreversible but would potentially be a necessary move in certain cases depending on the individual’s potential U.S. tax liabilities. For further information in this area, see: IRS Green Card Test guidance.

Thus, if you have a green card and are planning to depart the United States for an extended period, it is highly advisable to speak with an immigration lawyer prior to your departure to understand all of your options.