Working or Studying Abroad as a Lawful Permanent Resident
Contributor: Van T. Doan
You've acquired lawful permanent resident (LPR) status after weeks, months, or even years of filling out forms and complying with requirements. You don't want to jeopardize your status, but you have the opportunity of a lifetime, working or studying abroad. Can you accept it while maintaining your green card?
You're wise to be concerned. You can lose your LPR status if you "abandon" it, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has identified a number of ways you can be deemed to have abandoned your LPR status. One of these is moving to another country, intending to live there permanently.
You may thinking to yourself, "Well, that's no problem! I definitely plan to come back to the United States...eventually." Unfortunately, your subjective intentions aren't the only thing that matter; what your actions suggest about your intentions may be determinative of whether working or studying abroad as a lawful permanent resident of the United States will jeopardize your status.
An Extended Stay Outside the U.S. May Jeopardize Your Green Card
If you stay outside of the United States for an extended period, generally about a year, USCIS may consider you to have abandoned your LPR status. It's possible, however, that you may be deemed to have abandoned your status in a shorter time frame, and also possible for you to be gone longer without losing your status.
What is most critical is the body of facts surrounding your absence from the country. USCIS will consider:
- The reason for your travel outside the United States;
- How long you intended to be absent from the country;
- Events that may have extended your absence beyond the time originally intended; and
- Any other circumstances surrounding your absence.
What other circumstances might USCIS look at to evaluate your intent to remain a lawful permanent resident? Among other things, the connections you maintain in both the U.S. and whatever country you are visiting. Your spouse and family remaining in the United States while you work or study abroad would suggest that you intend to return. So would maintaining your U.S. bank accounts, driver's license, and any real estate you own here. By the same token, the more you appear to be establishing ties to the country you are "visiting," the more likely it is that USCIS will determine you do not intend to return.
You should also continue to file U.S. tax returns, but declaring yourself a "nonimmigrant" on those returns could constitute abandonment of LPR status. And be aware that residing in a foreign country, even with the intent to return to the U.S., is likely to mean you will not have continually resided in the U.S., delaying your opportunity to become a citizen.
What to Do if You Are Considering Work or Study Outside the U.S. as a Green Card Holder
Its important that you leave as little to chance as possible if you are considering working or studying abroad as a lawful permanent resident. If you are a green card holder and are contemplating an extended period of work or study outside the United States, your first move should be to consult an experienced immigration law attorney. An attorney can help you obtain a re-entry permit from USCIS prior to your departure. If you are already outside the country, an attorney can advise you regarding obtaining an SB-1 returning resident visa from the local U.S. consulate.
Either a re-entry permit or returning resident visa will support (but not guarantee) a finding that you have not abandoned your LPR status. The best way to safeguard your status is to have an immigration attorney advising you and working on your behalf.
Categories: Immigration Law