The Need to Actively Maintain U.S. Permanent Residency Once it is Granted
There is a common saying in American English, “Use it or lose it.” This is particularly true in the immigration context when it comes to U.S. permanent residency. If a client does not make active use of his or her U.S. permanent residency there is a strong possibility the U.S. government will deem the client’s intent to reside in the United States to be abandoned and cease affording the client the privileges of permanent residency. The consequences of abandonment are severe. Once permanent residency is abandoned the only way to get it back is to start the entire process over from the beginning by filing a new immigrant visa petition.
Status as a permanent resident can be lost on a number of criminal grounds or by voluntarily relinquishing your green card to an appropriate U.S. official, but for most law-abiding clients the primary concern will be making sure they do not unintentionally abandon their permanent residency. There are four common pitfalls that clients should be aware of to ensure they do not unintentionally abandon their status as a permanent resident.
- Permanent residency can be abandoned by moving to a country other than the United States with the intent to live their permanently.
Status as a permanent resident is not just a convenient substitute for a non-immigrant visa when traveling to the United States. Splitting time between the United States and another country is allowed, but If the client does not intend to establish and maintain some sort of permanent ties with the U.S. and instead intends to permanently reside in another country there is significant risk of losing U.S. permanent residency.
- Permanent residency can be abandoned by remaining outside the United States for a long period of time.
Permanent residents are free to travel internationally. After all, more convenient international travel is one of the most desired benefits of becoming a permanent resident. That said, clients wishing to keep their status as permanent residents should consider documenting the temporary nature of their travel and maintaining concrete ties to the U.S., such as living arrangements and bank accounts. For lengthy trips, such as those lasting more than six months, it may even be beneficial to obtain a re-entry permit from USCIS prior to leaving the United States. The re-entry permit serves as a clear demonstration that, while the client may have to leave the United States for a time, the client does not intend to abandon their U.S. permanent residency.
- Permanent residency can be abandoned by failing to file U.S. income tax returns.
From an immigration perspective the privilege of becoming a U.S. permanent resident comes along with the obligation to file U.S. income tax returns. This may not necessarily mean the client will owe U.S. income taxes, but the returns should be filed. Clients should always consult licensed U.S. tax professionals for concerns related to the filing U.S. tax returns and the payment of U.S. income taxes.
- Permanent residency can be abandoned by claiming to be a non-immigrant when filing U.S. income tax returns.
There is a very firm distinction in U.S. law between non-immigrants and immigrants. Non-immigrants are individuals temporarily authorized to remain in the United States. Immigrants are permanent residents and are authorized to remain in the country indefinitely so long as they maintain their permanent residence. The two are treated very different for a variety of legal purposes, including income taxation. Declaring yourself to be a non-immigrant when filing a U.S. income tax return is interpreted as a desire to no longer enjoy the privileges of permanent residency and meet the attached obligations.
For most clients it should be quite easy to maintain status as a U.S. permanent resident. In the simplest terms, consistently spend time in the United States, file U.S. income tax returns, and do not claim to be a non-immigrant when filing tax returns. The consequences of abandonment are so extreme though that it is important to make sure clients are intimately familiar with these requirements both while their immigration is in progress and after their permanent residency has been approved.