September 21, 2009: Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residency

Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residency

My mother was granted a green card but, unfortunately, after a few years, she had some injuries and chose to go back to our country. It’s been three years now. Can she still come back to the US as a permanent resident? Thank you.
— Anonymous

Lawful permanent resident status can be lost if it is determined to be ‘abandoned’. One way it is found to be abandoned is where a person stays outside the United States for a lengthy period of time, usually at least more than six months.

Because she has been outside the United States for a ‘few’ years, she will probably be questioned by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at the airport regarding her long stay outside the United States. If so, she may be required to bring proof that she has not abandoned her lawful permanent resident status. Proof that she did not abandon lawful permanent status includes, but is certainly not limited to, proof of filing annual U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, property ownership, U.S. bank accounts, and business and family ties in the U.S. Basically, she will need to show that although she was outside the U.S. for a long period of time, she had a continuing and uninterrupted intent to return.

Depending on her medical condition, perhaps travel was not advised by her treating physician. These issues need to be explored in depth.

If she provides sufficient proof of her continuing intent to return, then if the government wants to dispute her intent, it must prove that she abandoned her residency by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence.

Generally, it is wise for lawful permanent residents who must make a lengthy trip outside the United States to file a Form I-131, Travel Document, specifically applying for a re-entry permit. Although a re-entry permit alone does not guarantee your admission back into the United States after a trip that lasted more than 6 months, it is an indication that your trip abroad was intended to be only temporary and that you intended to return to the United States at the trip’s conclusion.

It may be wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney regarding your mother’s lawful permanent resident status to discuss all of her options.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys