Is Permanent Residence Really Permanent?

A legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States (US) has permission to stay in the US on a permanent basis with almost unrestricted work authorization. However, unlike a US citizen, an LPR can lose his or her immigration status, intentionally or unintentionally.

Below is a discussion of common ways that an LPR can lose his or her immigration status:

  1. Becoming a US citizen
  2. Relinquishing permanent residence
  3. Finding of abandonment
  4. Finding of inadmissibility or removability

1. US Citizenship
An LPR who is sworn in as a US citizen automatically loses his or her permanent resident status.

2. Relinquishing LPR Status
An LPR may voluntarily give up his or her permanent resident status by signing a form before a US consular officer or immigration officer that affirmatively states that the LPR is giving up his or her permanent resident status.

3. Abandonment
Although an LPR only needs his or her green card to reenter the US after an absence of less than one year, a green card alone is not enough to indicate the intent to remain a resident of the US.

A green card holder who has been absent from the US frequently or for an extended period of time may be questioned at the port of entry and asked to prove that he or she has not abandoned permanent residence status. If an immigration officer finds that the LPR has moved to another country with the intent to live there permanently, the LPR may be found to have abandoned his or her permanent resident status.

In assessing the Intent, the immigration officer may consider the following questions:

  1. Did the LPR intend to reside permanently in the US, both during the time the LPR lived in the US and any time that the LPR was outside the US?
  2. What proof does the LPR have that he or she intends to reside permanently in the US?
  3. How much time has the LPR spent in the US after becoming a permanent resident?

Absences from the US of more than six months may raise a rebuttable presumption that the LPR intended to abandon his or her permanent resident status. Absences from the US of more than one year may result in the invalidation of permanent resident status unless the LPR holds a valid re-entry permit or returning resident visa. (An LPR may be given permission to remain outside of the United States for more than 2 years if he or she is issued a reentry permit prior to the trip.)

Other factors immigration officers may consider when making a finding of abandonment include are noncompliance with tax regulations (i.e. filing as a nonresident, or failing to file taxes while living outside the US), and noncompliance with selective service requirements.

4. Inadmissibility or Removability
More seriously, an LPR may lose his or her status if found inadmissible or removable (deportable) from the US. Some circumstances that would lead to such a finding include (but are not limited to):

  • engaging in illegal activity outside the US;
  • departing from the United States while under legal process seeking removal of the alien from the US;
  • attempting to enter the US at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers or not admitted to the US after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer;
  • committing an offense identified in INA § 212(a)(2), unless the alien was granted relief for those offenses. Offenses include (but are not limited to) criminal offenses that involve controlled substances, firearms, alien smuggling, and domestic abuse.

With increasing focus on immigration enforcement and information sharing between US government agencies, an LPR who has committed a criminal violation is more likely to be detected. Two common ways of being detected are when an LPR is seeking to be readmitted into the US after a trip, and when an LPR is arrested.

Due to the serious immigration consequences of criminal activities, an LPR who has committed a crime, or has been convicted of any crimes, should seek out reliable legal assistance as soon as possible.

More Information

PLEASE NOTE: Immigration law and regulations change frequently. In order to protect yourself, you should make sure that you understand the laws and how they apply to you. If you have questions about your status, you should consult an expert. If you would like to be notified of recent changes to this website, or if you would like to receive Immigration Tips by email, please provide us with your email address. If you would like help from Ms. Chappell-Daly, please contact her.