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How To Keep Your Green Card

Acquiring a green card is one of the most meaningful events for many immigrants in the United States. However, it is crucial to recognize that a green card does not automatically shield you from the possibility of losing immigrant status, deportation, or removal. Thus, learning about the various factors that can jeopardize your lawful permanent resident status (LPR) is essential. Understanding these nuances can help protect your permanent resident card and prevent future risks.

This article will discuss the tips and strategies for keeping your lawful permanent resident status.

Maintaining Your Green Card Status

As an LPR or green card holder, you can maintain your permanent resident status until one of the following situations arises:

  • You apply for and complete the U.S. citizenship or naturalization process
  • You abandon or lose your permanent resident status

Naturalization or Acquiring U.S. Citizenship

Naturalization is the process wherein a foreign national may become a U.S. Citizen. It is often processed in the U.S., wherein Congress grants U.S. citizenship to applicants who meet specific requirements. The requirements include the number of years you hold a legal permanent resident status. You may initiate the process by completing Form N-400 of the Application for Naturalization. You can access this form in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Upon successful naturalization application, your immigration status changes from LPR to that of a U.S. Citizen. You can check out this article for more information about what it takes to become a naturalized U.S. Citizen.

Abandoning or Losing Your Lawful Permanent Resident Status

You can also lose your LPR status by doing acts that demonstrate your intent to abandon it permanently. These acts include the following:

  • Declaring yourself as nonimmigrant in your U.S. tax returns
  • Moving to another country with the intent to live there permanently
  • Staying outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time, unless the absence is merely temporary, as demonstrated by the following:
    • The length of your plan to be out of the United States
    • The reason for your trip
    • Other events that could have caused an extended period of stay out of the United States
    • Other circumstances that caused your absence from the United States

Get a Re-Entry Permit if You Will Be Outside the U.S. For One Year or More

It should be noted that there are also steps that you can do before your trip to ensure smooth entry to the U.S. when you come back. This step includes acquiring a re-entry permit from the USCIS before leaving the United States.

re-entry permit will allow you to stay outside the U.S. for up to two years and serve as an entry document once you return. You should apply before you leave and likely need to complete Form I-131.

If you fail to get a re-entry permit, you must apply at a U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy abroad for a special immigrant visa as a returning resident. This will require you to demonstrate that you were away from the U.S. for longer than a year due to unforeseeable circumstances, such as an illness.

These documents can help show proof that you intended the trip to be only temporary. You can check out this article for more information about whether you can travel out of the country with an LPR status.

Voluntary Surrender of Legal Permanent Resident Card

Thousands of lawful permanent residents file Form I-407 annually, otherwise known as Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. The form is commonly filed by those wanting to cease paying U.S. taxes. For others, they decided to abandon their lives in the United States permanently.

Typically you can contest any move to revoke your LPR status, but in case of voluntary surrender of LPR status, the immigration officer may ask you to sign Form I-407. This form will reflect that you are giving up the opportunity to defend yourself and to voluntary deportation.

Willful Misrepresentation or Fraud

Generally, a person commits fraud or misrepresentation when they provide false statements to gain immigration benefits. It could occur while preparing an immigration application, submitting pieces of evidence, attending an interview, or in any other exchange of information with immigration officials. It can also occur in other instances when the person is processing an immigration benefit, such as cases of extended stay, employment authorization, change of status, parole, etc.

Any representation or assertion of facts that are not true could cause significant consequences. It could also result in the potential loss of LPR status.

Nonimmigrant Visa Fraud

Most nonimmigrant visa applicants should show their intent to return to the United States once they finish their intended activity or program. This is known as the nonimmigrant intent.

Marriage Fraud

Marriage-based visas are one of the ways for a foreign national to obtain a green card. As a result, fraud has been prevalent as individuals use this to obtain permanent residence under false pretenses. The USCIS identified some of the forms of marriage fraud:

  • A U.S. citizen who gets paid to enter into a marriage with a foreign national
  • A marriage between a foreign national and the U.S. Citizen as a favor
  • Mail-order marriages without genuine intent to enter into a marital relationship

Criminal Convictions

There are specific types of crimes that, if committed by an LPR, could result in removal proceedings, deportation, or denial of entry into the United States. Note that this issue is decided on a case-by-case basis, but the following acts could result in the removal of a person from the United States:

  • A conviction of crimes involving moral turpitude, punishable by a sentence of at least one year, that are committed within five years upon admission in the United States.
  • A conviction of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after admission in the United States. The two crimes need not arise out of two misconduct or scheme.
  • A conviction of aggravated felony at any time upon admission into the United States.

This is not a complete list of criminal convictions. For more information about this legal issue, it is best to consult with an immigration lawyer. They can assist you with understanding your case and could provide more tailored legal advice.

Register With Selective Service if You Qualify

All male lawful permanent residents, ages 18 to 25, must register with the Selective Service System (SSS). This tracks those eligible for U.S. military service in the event of a sudden need for troops. Failure to register with the Selective Service could impact your immigration status.

This requirement does not apply to those in the U.S. on a temporary visa who entered the U.S. after their 26th birthday or who didn't actively maintain their green card status by residing in the U.S.

Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Law Attorney

Migrating to the United States and obtaining a permanent resident card can be overwhelming. The Department of Homeland Security of the U.S. government has complex rules that apply differently in each case. For instance, you can acquire permanent resident status through employment-based or family-based immigration. Once you obtain your LPR status, you must understand the rules and requirements to maintain your legal immigration status.

An immigration lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate various application processes, and assess your visa eligibility and applicable waivers. If you or your family members are permanent residents and would like to learn more about maintaining your LPR status, contact an immigration lawyer.

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