Unless you truly know you never want to live in the United States again, abandoning your green card is a bad idea. To get a new green card, you have to start the whole process over again. You also need a qualified sponsor and you must again show you are eligible. You must pay for application fees, which continually increase, and wait your turn, just as you did the first time around.  The wait might be longer next time and there is no guarantee you will be approved. The fact that you abandoned your green card in the past may actually be a strike against you.

Abandoning Your Green Card

A legal permanent resident involuntarily loses his or her green card if a judge issues a removal order, usually after an arrest or a conviction for certain serious crimes.

You may also voluntarily abandon your legal permanent residence by:

  • Moving to another country with the intention of living there permanently
  • Remaining in another country for an extended time period
  • Not paying taxes while in the U.S. or abroad
  • Checking the “nonimmigrant” box on your U.S. tax return

Applying for Your Re-Entry Permit

You are not a prisoner of this country. You can travel into and out of the United States just as a U.S. citizen could. In most situations, you can take long holidays overseas, make repeated trips to visit family or remain abroad for months to conduct business and still keep your green card. However, you need to properly prepare.

A re-entry permit, or travel document, grants you advanced parole into the United States. This means the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has already decided that your travel is not considered abandonment of your legal resident status.

If you know you will be outside the United States for more than one year, you should obtain a travel document before you leave. You may also consider applying for a travel document for a trip that is expected to last less than a year if your intentions to return could come into question. For example, if you plan to buy property and get married in your country of origin over the course of several months, you may want to apply for a travel document.

To apply for a re-entry permit, you will need to explain the purpose and dates of your long trip and any special circumstances regarding your absence from the country.

Remember, the purpose of the document is to indicate you are not giving up your green card. Be aware of the language you use while describing the reason for your travels. For example, emphasize the temporary nature of attending school or accepting a freelance job opportunity in another country, and provide evidence of ties to the United States, such as family, home, employment, bank accounts, tax returns and community involvement.

An unexpected event may extend your travels. In this case, you can apply for a travel document at the U.S. consulate. Bring evidence as to what prompted your extended stay, such as a death in the family, a medical emergency or a natural disaster.

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*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice

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