Around one million people get a green card each year, a permit to permanently let you live in the US. This may also be referred to as permanent residence. Many people think that when they get permanent residency, they can take advantage of it no matter what. But the truth is, it sounds permanent, but it is not actually.. o You should not be fooled by thinking that you can return to your home country by simply visiting the US once in a while. The word permanent is for US Immigration law; they assume that a person holding a green card will stay in the US permanently. If a person doesn’t return before 12 months, he’ll lose his green card. Other reasons may lead you to lose your green card, including violating the law and criminal activities.
Once you become a lawful permanent resident of the US, you have to maintain your status; otherwise, you will lose or abandon your green card.
How Do You Lose Your Green Card?
You might have waited months and years to earn US residency, but you cannot think of losing it. Losing your green card is way easier than you think because of the strict rules for immigrants.
Following are some of the reasons that might get your green card in trouble:
- By Leaving the united states
- By violating the law
By Leaving The United States
The first and common way green card holders can lose their green card is by leaving the United States for a longer time. If you are a green card holder and plan to leave the US to make some other country your homeland, you will lose your green card and US residency. To make another home country, you have to leave the US. But it is hard to know what’s your intent anyway. Therefore, US immigration has border officials trained to determine and examine a person’s behavior to understand their meaning. For example, if you have a green card and leave the US for more than one year, the US authorities might think you have planned to abandon the US. That doesn’t mean that by remaining outside the US for more than a year, you’ll eventually lose your green card. No, you have to give valid reasons to prove that you don’t want to abandon US residency. For example, you might have left to take care of your sick father, but he was so sick that you couldn’t return until he died. US officials will likely look into the matter, and you won’t lose your green card.
A case happened years ago when a mother and her children came from japan, got a green card, and went back to japan. They used to visit the US once a year. Later it was found that the lady had abandoned her US residency. She came back to the US when she felt like not because she needed to.
No matter what your intent is, the US border officials and USCIS will look into the following factors:
- The length of your absence
- The reason for your absence
- The location of your family and employment
- The maintenance of your license and bank accounts
This is the most common and the worst mistake people make and end up losing their green card. However, it is not the only reason you can lose your green card.
By Violating the laws
The second way the green card holders can lose their green card is by committing a crime. You might be thinking, I cannot commit a crime, so I cannot lose my green card. But no, it’s not the case here. There is no specific list of crimes that will get your green card in trouble. You do not have to be a felony or a person with criminal records to lose your green card. For example, a person may lose his green card if he is involved in illegal activities or has helped enter the US illegally. A person may be deported from the US for committing domestic violence, possessing drugs, or do fraud or morally wrong things like theft and sexual abuse or harassment, etc.
Some of these crimes are not so troubling, but no specific crime list tells which crime will get you deported. If a person gets arrested, he must consult a criminal lawyer and an immigration lawyer to help him with how he can keep his green card. Hiring an immigration lawyer is vital because most criminal lawyers do not know the immigration laws. For example, a person may lose his green card if his violation doesn’t fall under the criminal laws. He might have got the green card through fraud, US citizenship, and immigration services; USCIS will take action against him, and he will be removed from the US.
One of the most comfortable violations of law is not keeping your address up to date. You have a ten days deadline to inform USCIS about your address after moving. If you fail to do so, they might intend that you are into something illegal that’s why you didn’t update your address.
How to Not Lose Your Green Card?
First things first, to avoid losing a green card because of leaving the US, you must visit the US once a year. But it doesn’t mean that you can use this strategy to keep your green card. Do not plan to live abroad and visit the US once a year because the border officials and US immigration services will consider it. There is no hard rule. Therefore, there is no answer to this question: how long can you stay outside of the US. However, you must have to prove to the border officials that your permanent residence and home country is the United States.
Here are three tips you can follow to maintain your permanent resident status:
- Visit the US once in six months; if you visit the US within six months of leaving the US, you will probably not fall into trouble.
- You have to avoid leaving the US for more extended periods of life, more than one year.
- If you know or plan that you will not return before one year, apply for a re-entry permit
If you are a green card holder and plan to leave the US for more than one year, it is the best option to apply for a re-entry permit. The re-entry permit is renewable, and it will allow you to stay abroad for two years. However, for applying to USCIS for a re-entry permit, you will have to state why you need a re-entry permit. You will have to be in the US to apply. Remember that you cannot renew a re-entry permit; once it expires, it would be better to return to the US, get a new one and leave.
However, if you stay outside the US for more than one year and do not get a re-entry permit before leaving, you must consult a US consulate abroad to get a returning visa. But it isn’t easy, you will have to convince the consulate that you planned for a quick visit, but somehow you couldn’t return. You will have to show evidence supporting your statement; the evidence might be a doctor’s prescription not to travel or admission to hospital etc.
Apply for Citizenship
One of the best and easiest ways to avoid your chances of losing your green card is to apply for citizenship. Applying for citizenship is the easiest way to demonstrate that the US is your intended permanent residence and don’t plan to abandon it. But remember, you will have to wait five years after getting the green card to be eligible for citizenship. The waiting period could drop to four years if you received asylum because the first year will be counted as an asylee. The waiting period could drop to three years if you got your green card when you were married to a US citizen. However, to get three years’ benefit, you have to prove that you are still married and living together.
Inform USCIS Within Ten Days of Moving; Update Your Address
As a green card holder and permanent resident, you are required to update your status and address. You have a deadline of ten days; you have to notify USCIS within ten days of moving. If you do not do so, they will make their minds that you did this on purpose. However, it can be due to technical issues. To avoid this problem, it’s better to keep your address up to date. Do not worry; you won’t have to apply physically; USCIS has provided the green card holder with an online service to update their status.
Register with the Selective Service System (SSS)
The male green card holder or permanent residents aged 18 to age 25 should register in the selective service system. The Selective service system (SSS) keeps track of the eligible male permanent residents in troops or doctors’ emergency needs.
Precautions to Maintain Your Green Card
Despite the procedures mentioned earlier, we have sorted out some of the best precautions to help you maintain your green card. Let’s have a look:
- Do not let your green card lost or expired
- Manage to get a job in the US
- Make sure to file US TAX returns
- Maintain our driving license and bank accounts
- Manage to own property in the US
- Register for selective service if you qualify
- make your spouse and kids live in the US under your protection
- Obtain a re-entry permit before leaving the US
Frequently Asked Questions
Following are some of the frequently asked question which we have tried to answer to help you maintain your green card.
Can I Stay More Than 6 Months Outside US with Green Card?
As a green card holder, you can stay outside the US for more than six months. However, if you remain outside the US for six or more months per year, you might risk abandoning your green card.
How Long Do I Have to Stay in The US to Keep A Green Card?
If you are a permanent resident (green card holder) of the US, you can leave and enter the US multiple times. There’s no limit. But if you intend to leave the US for more than a year, your green card will get into trouble.
How Long Can A Green Card Holder Stay Out of The Country?
If you want a one-figure answer, then it is six months. As a lawful permanent resident, you can stay out of the US for up to six months.
What Happens to The Green Card Holders Staying Outside the US for More Than A Year?
They will lose their green card; it’s that simple. However, there may be the exception that they succeed in proving their intent to live in the US.
How to Maintain Permanent Residence Status?
Once you hold your green card and become a permanent resident of the US, you maintain our status until you leave the US for more than one year or apply for the naturalization process.
What Circumstances Can Place My Green Card Status Under Scrutiny?
Following circumstances can place your permanent residency under scrutiny:
- If you leave the Us for more than one year.
- You leave the Us frequently after returning; it shows that you just entered into the US to maintain your green card status. You do not intend to make it your home country.
- You have no financial obligation in the US.
- You do not have a regular job and no maintained licenses and bank records.
- Your dependents (Spouses and children) live in another country.