Permanent resident status can be obtained by those people who intend to live in the United States in the foreseeable future. Permanent residents, also known as green card holders, have the right to live and work permanently in the United States. However, there are ways to lose this status.
The article discusses the main ways to lose permanent resident status, but this is not an exhaustive list. Only a lawful permanent resident who has naturalized as a US citizen is protected from most of these grounds for removal.
1. Living outside the United States
As a rule, staying more than 12 months outside the United States results in the loss of permanent resident status. In fact, even shorter absences can lead to this. If, upon re-entry, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer determines that you intended to live outside the United States, he or she may initiate an expulsion procedure. In addition, failure to file your tax return with the IRS while living outside the United States may result in expulsion.
Each year, many people inadvertently relinquish their permanent resident status when they return to their country. They may need to take care of a sick family member, attend school, or undergo treatment. Without proper preparation and planning, this leads to the most common way of losing permanent resident status.
There are exceptions. Permanent residents who have received a re-entry permit prior to departure can usually extend their absence for up to 24 months. In addition, US government employees (military and civil service employees directly hired), their spouses and minor children with permanent resident status may remain outside the United States for the duration of their official business trip abroad plus four months without losing their resident status. There is also an exception for permanent residents with commuter status – green card holders who work in the United States but live overseas in Canada or Mexico.
An immigrant who has lost his permanent resident status and wants to return to the United States as an immigrant must obtain a new immigrant visa. In most cases, this means that the prospective immigrant must reapply. A U.S. relative (spouse, parent, child, or brother) can file an I-130 immigrant petition. The prospective immigrant then applies through the consulate after USCIS approves the visa application and the visa is again available.
2. Voluntary refusal from the green card
If you have ever filed Form I-407, you have voluntarily renounced your status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Every year, several thousand people complete Form I-407, Report on Renunciation of Legal Permanent Resident Status.
The most common reason people file an I-407 is to avoid paying taxes in the United States. However, anyone who wishes to do so should consult with an immigration attorney and tax professional who can advise on the long-term consequences of such actions. There are other former immigrants who simply decide they want to leave the United States for good.
In some cases, CBP employees may ask certain individuals to sign Form I-407. If you have lived outside the United States (as discussed in the previous section) and the CBP officer believes you have left your United States residence, you usually have the right to defend yourself. The officer may ask you to sign Form I-407 so that you give up the opportunity to defend yourself and leave the country voluntarily. If you intend to continue your permanent residence, do not sign the I-407 and contact an immigration attorney.
3. Fraud and willful misleading
A scam is usually committed when a person lies in order to obtain any kind of immigration benefit. However, any statement or presentation of facts that is not completely truthful can create serious immigration problems and potentially lead to the loss of permanent resident status.
Fraud can occur in the preparation of the application, the presentation of evidence, interviews and any exchange of information with immigration officials. This can happen due to immigration benefits.
The two most common ways to lose permanent resident status are marriage fraud and visa fraud.
Marriage is a long-standing target of fraud. Marrying a US citizen is one of the fastest paths to a green card. As a result, unscrupulous people use it as a means of fraudulently obtaining permanent residence. Fraud in marriage takes many forms. USCIS has identified the following types of marriage fraud:
- someone pays a US citizen to marry a foreigner;
- a U.S. citizen marries a foreign citizen as a service;
- a foreign citizen is cheating on a US citizen who believes that his marriage is legal;
- mail order marriages (when a US citizen or foreign citizen knows the marriage is fraudulent);
- fraudulent marriages related to the visa lottery.
Nonimmigrant Visa Fraud
Most foreign nationals applying for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa must demonstrate that they plan to return home when they complete their intended program or activity. This standard, known as nonimmigrant intent, requires a person to have a residence abroad that they do not intend to give up.
The US Department of State uses the 90-day rule to assess when a nonimmigrant tries to change status to permanent resident status. The 90-day rule is a kind of indication that there is a presumption of fraud if a person violates their nonimmigrant status or behaves in such a way that their behavior is incompatible with this status, within 90 days of entry. For example, entering the United States on a B-2 visa with the known intent to marry and completing Form I-485 to adjust status would be in violation of visa requirements.
4. Criminal sentences
Not all criminal convictions result in the loss of permanent resident status. There are certain types of criminal offenses (usually violent crimes) that make the permanent resident more likely to be subject to expulsion proceedings.
It is impossible to compile an exact list of crimes that will entail deportation. Only an experienced immigration attorney can analyze a specific situation and express their opinion. In general, officials can expel a person from the United States if they:
- convicted of a crime of moral licentiousness that was committed within five years after the date of entry into the United States (or ten years if the person received a green card as an informant about the crime), and is punished with imprisonment for at least one year ;
- was convicted of two or more crimes of moral licentiousness at any time after entering the United States, unless the two crimes arose from a single pattern of misconduct;
- was convicted of a felony at any time after entering the United States.
5. Failure to abolish the convention of residence
Conditional residents who have not canceled the conditionality of their residence in the United States, as a rule, can be evicted after the expiration of their two-year green cards.
Some foreign citizens-investors or spouses who received a residence permit as a result of marriage could receive a two-year conditional green card. To remain a permanent resident, a conditional permanent resident must file a petition to remove the conditionality. You must apply 90 days before the card expires. The conditional card cannot be renewed.
- To cancel the conditionality of a green card based on marriage, you need to fill out Form I-751, Petition for the Cancellation of Living Conditions.
- To cancel the convention of a green card for entrepreneurs, you must complete Form I-829, Entrepreneur Petition to Cancel Conditions.
As a rule, immigration officers can initiate an expulsion procedure against a foreign national if the petition is not filed before the deadline. If the problem is not resolved, the foreigner will lose his permanent resident status.
Citizenship is the best way to lose permanent resident status
Permanent residents who choose to naturalize as US citizens will also lose permanent resident status in the process. But it’s good. US citizens are protected from grounds for deportation. In other words, criminal convictions that would entail deportation for a permanent resident do not apply to a US citizen. As a rule, the Immigration Service can remove a US citizen from the country only if he or she fraudulently obtained a green card or citizenship.
Many permanent residents who have lived in the United States for at least five years are eligible to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.