As a legal permanent resident and green card holder, you may have many legitimate reasons for traveling outside of the U.S. such as serious family problems back home, caring for a sick relative or a young child, business trips, or returning to school to finish your education.
Unfortunately, having a green card doesn’t mean you can come and go as you please. Without understanding the general rules that govern how long or how often you can travel outside of the U.S., you could easily overstep the boundaries of your rights and jeopardize your permanent resident status. Even worse, you could be placed in abandonment proceedings, lose your green card, and be forced to return to your native country.
That’s why Sassoun A. Nalbandian recommends that green card holders consult with an immigration attorney before they leave the United States.
Abandonment Is a Complex Immigration Issue
Instead of having clear-cut guidelines, rules and regulations, abandonment is a very complex immigration issue that must be resolved case by case before an immigration judge. The main reason for its complexity is the fact that airport and customs officials and/or immigration judges don’t just look at how long you were outside of the U.S. They also look at your true intentions and the nature of the circumstances that kept you away longer than you originally anticipated.
What Circumstances Constitute Abandonment?
These are several examples of what can happen to you when you don’t understand the nature and limitations of your travel rights as a green card holder:
- Can I travel, come back to the U.S. every six months for a few days, then travel again, thus repeating the cycle?
It is not recommended. Immigration officials can make an abandonment of green card determination based on the fact that you have been outside of the U.S. for a longer period of time than inside.
- Can I travel more than six months but come back in less than one year?
Generally, green card holders who travel and return within one year are not likely to abandon their permanent residence. But if you are absent for more than six months continuously but less than one year, immigration officials can presume that you have broken your continuous residence for naturalization purposes. Therefore, you’ll need to wait four years and one month from the date of your return from your last trip of over six months before you can apply for citizenship. There are two exceptions to the rule:
- You prove that you maintained your U.S. residence.
- You show that your absence for over six months was beyond your control.
- Can I leave the U.S. for longer than one year?
Immigration officials will find you in abandonment of your permanent resident status unless you have a Re-Entry Permit, a document that allows you to be outside of the U.S. for a maximum of two years continuously. You will still have to wait four years and one month from the date of your return to the U.S. before you can apply for citizenship. There are three exceptions to the rule:
- You only have to wait two years and one month to apply for citizenship if you obtained your permanent legal resident status through marriage to a U.S. citizen, and
- You can apply for an SB-1 Returning Resident Visa at the U.S. consulate in your native country where you’ll have more protection with abandonment issues than you would in your native country.
- If you have been outside of the U.S. for over one year and your failiour to return to the U.S. was not your fault or you have sufficient documentation to prove that you did not intend to abandon your residence, you may be permitted to keep your green card.
Are You Facing Abandonment Proceedings?
If you or your loved one is outside the U.S. and afraid to return because of a lengthy absence, or you are already in abandonment proceedings, contact Nalbandian Law for immediate consultation. “Even if you are facing deportation,contact us immediately,” Mr. Nalbandian emphasized, “because it’s still not too late for us to help you keep your permanent resident status.”
Pay Special Attention to This Warning
If you arrive back in the U.S. unaware that you’re in jeopardy of being deported, you may REFUSE TO SIGN ANY PAPERWORK the immigration officials tell you to sign that states you voluntarily abandon your permanent legal resident status. You always have the right to request a consultation with your attorney before you sign any paperwork.
For over 15 years, Nalbandian Law has maintained a perfect success rate* with abandonment cases for permanent residents. “With affidavits and documentation, we were able to show that our clients’ sincere intent was not to abandon their permanent residence in the U.S.,” Mr. Nalbandian said.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Even though, we highly recommend that you consult with us before you travel, we can still help you if you are facing abandonment proceedings. Call Nalbandian Law at (818) 244-0310 or contact us online for a personal consultation with attorney Sassoun A. Nalbandian.
*Approval rates do not guarantee future approval of your petition. No attorney can ethically guarantee any outcome. Always consult with a licensed, competent immigration attorney such as the experienced immigration attorneys at Nalbandian Law before filing your case.