Is U.S. Permanent Residence Really Permanent?

Being a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. suggests that once a person gains that status, they will keep it permanently. But in reality, there are ways that a Lawful Permanent Resident (often referred to as an “LPR”) may lose his or her LPR status.

One way an LPR may lose his status is if he ‘abandons’ it. An LPR may be presumed to have abandoned his permanent residence if he remains outside of the U.S. for a long period of time, if he moves abroad with the intent of living there permanently, if he doesn’t file a U.S. tax return while living outside of the U.S., or if he declares himself as a non-immigrant on U.S. tax returns.

U.S. immigration law defines permanent residence by domicile, meaning where someone considers their ‘home’, rather than where they ‘reside’. The government will consider an LPR who has remained outside of the U.S. for more than a year to no longer have U.S. domicile, thus abandoning the permanent residence. Some LPRs think they can keep their permanent residence by returning to the U.S. for a short trip once a year, but this is a risky strategy. An LPR who decides to live abroad for most of the year and return to the U.S. for only short visits runs the risk of government finding he has abandoned his permanent residence.

But, the government considers several factors when determining whether an LPR has abandoned their permanent residence because of excessive time spent outside the U.S. An LPR can prove he intended his absence from the U.S. to be temporary, thus having no intent to abandon their permanent residence, by showing the reason for his trip abroad; how long he intended to be absent from the U.S.; the existence of a fixed end date to his visit abroad; and his objective intent to return to the U.S. as a place of permanent employment or actual home, such as family ties, a job, income tax returns, club memberships, property owned, or mortgages.

In some cases, an LPR may need to depart the U.S. for an extended period of time but maintain his intent to return to the U.S. and continue his permanent residence. For example, an LPR may have an extended trip abroad to care for a sick family member. In such cases where an LPR will be abroad for more than six months it is wise to apply for a Reentry Permit, which is the governments permission to enter the U.S. as an LPR after an extended stay abroad – the Reentry Permit helps prove that you did not mean to abandon your permanent residence.

The process of gaining U.S. permanent residence can be long and complicated. It is very important for LPRs to make sure they don’t do anything that could jeopardize their status, especially when they spend much of the year outside of the U.S. Any LPR planning a long trip abroad is advised to speak with an immigration attorney to make sure their permanent residence stays permanent.

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