Rights of Green Card Holders at the Border


Rights of Legal Permanent Residents at the US Border

All travelers, including permanent residents (green card holders) and US citizens, are subject to inspection by the Immigration Service when entering the US.

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers may question permanent residents when entering the US at a port of entry to determine if they are “returning residents,” or if they have abandoned status as a permanent resident.

Abandonment of Permanent Resident Status

If you are a permanent resident of the US, you may be questioned on the following issues when you arrive at the US border:

  1. Where do you live?
  2. What evidence do you have that you reside permanently in the US?
  3. When you left the US did you intend to return to your residence in the US at the time you left, and for the entire time you were outside the US?
  4. How long have you been outside the US?
  5. Have you committed any crimes, either in the US or outside the US, since you became a permanent resident?
  6. If you have been outside the US for a continuous period of 180 days, you are likely to be questioned more thoroughly about these issues.

Any permanent residents who are returning residents and who are found by the Immigration Service to have abandoned their permanent residence, have a right to a hearing by an immigration judge on the issue of abandonment of permanent residence.

A permanent resident remains a permanent resident unless the Immigration Service proves abandonment by clear and convincing evidence, and until a final order of removal (deportation) is issued by an immigration judge.

If the Immigration Service determines that a permanent resident has abandoned residence in the US, and the permanent resident refuses to sign an acknowledgment of abandonment (Form I-407) CBP can issue a Notice to Appear before an immigration judge.  Even permanent residents who have signed form I-407 have the right to request a hearing by an immigration judge.

Right to Counsel

The Immigration Service holds the position that there is no “right to counsel” during inspection and admission to the US.  At their discretion, the Immigration Service may allow a lawyer to accompany clients who are detained in secondary inspection or who are ordered to appear at a deferred inspection office.

If you are a permanent resident of the US, plan your trips outside the US carefully and be sure you understand the issues involved in abandoning permanent residence.