How do I Keep My Green Card?


Many of my clients ask me what they have to do to maintain their Permanent Resident card (also known as a green card.) There are specific rules and “softer” rules. The specific rules are easy:

  1. Trips outside the US for less than 6 months do not normally present difficulty, but read below.
  2. If the trip is more than 6 months and less than 1 year, there is a “rebuttable presumption” that you gave up your green card status. This means you have to prove that you did not and I address below the ties you need to do this.
  3. If the trip is more than 1 year you will need significant proof to overcome the conclusion you abandoned your status and lost your green card.
  4. There is a way to apply for advanced permission to stay outside of the US for up to two years BEFORE you depart. You will still have to show you did not abandon your permanent resident status.
  5. When applying for citizenship you must show that you have been in the country for 2 and ½ out of the last 5 years (1 and ½ out of 3 years if based on a marriage to a US citizen).

Unfortunately, even if you comply with all of the above there is still a test as to whether you intended to abandon your permanent resident status. This usually comes up when you apply for citizenship or reenter the country. The officer and/or USCIS will look at your ties to the US in order to determine if you voluntarily gave up your status. Here are items they look at:

  1. Residence-things like maintaining an apartment, home or other residence, like a family member. Family ties can show this as well and continuing employment when you return. Having a mailing address in the US helps as well. Keep a state issued driver’s license with the address and renew it on time.
  2. Financial-Bank accounts, credit cards, loans, or a mortgage in the US can show financial ties. FILE YOUR US TAX RETURNS! That is one of the most important items in any application to USCIS.
  3. Other-Membership in social groups in local communities and documentation giving reasons for long absences.

You don’t have to have all of the above items. The more of them you have, the better the case. Documentation is key. Specific scenarios need to be discussed with an attorney to ensure you maintain your green card.

©2010, Thomas N. Toscano, Esq. Mr. Toscano is a licensed New York attorney with offices in Glendale and Great Neck. 516-482-4192.