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Keeping your greencard

If you already have a green card, there are certain precautions you should take to keep it, i.e., not have the government take it away.


Keep Your Greencard

This document describes certain precautions for U.S. permanent residents ("green card" holders) to take in order to maximize the chances of being able to maintain permanent residency status, i.e., "keeping your green card." Please note that the purpose of this document is to help law-abiding persons avoid common pitfalls that could cause them to inadvertently lose their green card. It is not intended for anyone who should not legally be able to keep their green card.



It is very important to realize that U.S. Immigration law requires that a green card holder must NEVER abandon the INTENTION of continuing to reside permanently in the United States. Once, a green card holder abandons that intention, e.g., by intending to reside permanently in some other country, that person loses the right to keep their green card.

This means that ANYTIME a green card holder leaves the U.S., that person is subject to being accused by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (I.N.S.) of having abandoned the intention of living in the U.S., and is subject to having the greencard taken away--on the spot. Therefore, green card holders must always take certain PRECAUTIONS in order to be able to prove to the I.N.S. that they have never abandoned the intention of living in the U.S. permanently. However, simply returning to the U.S. once a year for several weeks to use the Green card is NOT enough!!! Many green card holders have lost their green cards--even though they returned to the U.S. once a year.


Consequently, it is very important that other precautions, such as the following, be taken:


  • If you will be leaving the U.S. for more than one year, but less than two years, it is advisable to obtain a reentry permit prior to leaving the U.S.
  • Note that if you continue to request a number of reentry permits (one after the other) the I.N.S. is likely to deny your application.


  • Be sure to file resident tax returns, e.g., 1040, and not a non-resident tax return!
  • Note that this does not necessarily mean that you must actually pay U.S. income taxes, it only means that you must file a resident tax return and declare your worldwide income on that return, even if most of this income is exempt from taxation. Consult a tax adviser where applicable.
  • Keep copies of all tax returns you have filed as a resident, and BRING THESE COPIES WITH YOU WHEN ENTERING THE UNITED STATES.


  • Maintain a U.S. Address, even if the address is the home of a friend or relative.
  • If possible, do not use "in care of" for your address.
  • DO NOT have a U.S. address which is a resort or hotel.


  • You should leave open and continue to use U.S. Bank accounts.
  • For example, some employers, when assigning an employee overseas, will continue to pay the employee in U.S. dollars, depositing the amount directly into the employee's U.S. account.


  • You should continue to RENEW your U.S. Driver's license.
  • Be sure that the address on your license is the same as that recorded on any immigration documents.
  • Carry your driver's license when entering the U.S.



  • If possible, continue ownership of U.S. property, e.g., houses, condominiums, businesses, automobiles, etc.
  • For example, a person assigned abroad may want to rent, rather than sell, his or her U.S. residence.


  • EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS: Before leaving the U.S. on long assignments abroad, it is advisable to obtain a written employment contract, or letter, from your employer.
  • The contract or letter should specify the terms and length of employment.
  • If the employment will lead to a transfer back to the U.S., or to a U.S. based affiliate of the foreign employer, the contract or statement should include this fact.


  • Be sure to maintain your social security card, and carry it with you on your return to the U.S.
  • If you have not yet done so, be sure to apply for the type of social security card which permits you to work in the U.S.


  • For persons of applicable age, be sure to register with selective service.


  • Be sure to renew your green card when it expires.
  • Children who reach the age of fourteen (14) must file an application to replace their green card unless the prior card will expire before they reach age 16.

12. THINGS TO AVOID (which may unintentionally create the appearance of having abandoned the INTENTION of continuing to reside permanently in the United States):

  • DO NOT return to the U.S. using any form of non-immigrant visa. For example, if you stay outside the U.S. for longer than one year, without having obtained a reentry permit, do NOT return to the U.S. on a tourist visa; instead, apply to the U.S. consulate for a Special Immigrant Visa.
  • DO NOT arrive via a chartered air carrier where nearly all passengers are nonimmigrant.
  • DO NOT return to the U.S. with a spouse and or children who are neither citizens nor green card holders, especially if they will be in the U.S. only a short time.
  • DO NOT arrive at a port of entry functioning as a gateway to a resort area.
  • DO NOT enter the U.S. on a round-trip ticket which terminates outside the U.S.


NOTE: That even if you take all of the above precautions, there is NO GUARANTEE that the U.S. immigration inspector will not exclude you from the U.S. for other reasons, e.g., such as for committing a crime involving moral turpitude. The above information is intended solely as general reference information. It is not legal advice. Consultation with an immigration attorney is recommended. In addition, please note that Immigration Laws frequently change.

Reader Comments

Abandonment of Permanent Resident Status

Dear Sir,

I have a Green Card, have been out of the U.S for more than a year and did not apply for a re-entry permit. I am going back to the U.S in a few days for business. I do not intend to return as a permanent resident. I have contacted my local U.S consulate to advise them of this. They adivsed I should surrender my green card with the I-407 abandonment of Permanent Resident Status Form and they would return the stamped form for me to present with my passport at U.S immigration. Unfortunately I have left it too late to wait for the stamped form to be returned. My citizenship normally allows me to enter the U.S for business/tourism under the Visa Waiver program. I can prove I now reside outside the U.S, I have a round-trip ticket and will take copies of correspondence from the consulate. Do you think I will have any problems surrendering my green card at U.S immigration & entering as a visitor without my stamped I-407 form from the consulate? I imagine this is quite straight forward but do you have any other advice to ensure this happens smoothly?

Married to US Citizen

I'm a Canadian citizen with a green card, and my wife is an American citizen. We're thinking of moving back to Canada, and I'm wondering if the rules for maintaining a green card are any different because I'm married to a US citizen? FYI: Canada's equivalent to the green card, for example, allows you to maintain it even when you move outside the country provided you remain married to a Canadian citizen. Is there any comparable allowance for US green card holders married to US citizens?

Reentry Permits & Married to US Citizen

There are no comparble special rules for spouses of U.S. citizens regarding keeping one's green card.

vacation for 3 weeks with conditional green card but divorce

Dear Sir,

Do I need a re-entry permit when coming back to US? I will only stayed 3 weeks in my home country and will be back in US. I am still in the process of removing my conditions, and can I still use my green card with my married name on it? my home passport is still on my unmarried name. Can I still use my married name to buy my ticket for that 3 weeks vacation? please reply me back. I'm confused. Thank you.

Hi, Soon I will get a GC for


Soon I will get a GC for all my family. We intend to enter the USA, get the passports stamped and get back after a few weeks only. We intent to move to USA only after I get a job offer. Meanwhile we wish to keep our current jobs.
Is it possible for me to enter USA once in a month for the interviews with the received GC till I find a good job?


Reentry Permit

It's probably advisable for you to apply for a reentry permit when you are in the U.S., after you obtain your green card.

Premanent residen/GC


My mom was issued a greed card sometime in 1986. She has been a permanent resident since. Recently there has been "rumors" that she has to change her green card to a newer one or lose her residency? is there any truth to this? Does she have to update her current green card?

Also she sent in her US citizenship application a couple of months ago. How does this affect her, if in fact she needs to update her green card.


Renewal of Non-Expiring Green Cards

If the green card has an expiration date, then there is no question that it must be renewed. However, a Green card issued in 1986 may be the type that does not expire. At present, 3 November 2007, U.S. Permanent residents who have Green Cards which do not expire are not required to renew their Green Cards.

However, the USCIS published a proposed rule on August 22, 2007 which would make it mandatory for all U.S. Permanent residents who have a Green Card which does not expire to renew their Green Card within a 120-day period.

If the new rule is adopted, then strictly speaking, any "alien who is at least 18 years old, who fails to file a timely Form I-90, and whose current Form I-551, therefore, expires, could be prosecuted for violating section 264(e). If convicted, the person could be sentenced to pay a fine of up to $100, to imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both. It is also a misdemeanor under section 266(a) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1306(a), for an alien to fail to register as required."

Written comments on the new rule were due on or before September 21, 2007. Consequently, at this time, we're waiting for the final action by the USCIS regarding its proposed rule, i.e., whether to adopt as proposed, adopt it with modifications, or not adopt it at all. Although no one knows what the final action will be, chances are that the USCIS will adopt some form of its proposed rule.

Incidentally, anyone who currently holds a Green Card which does not expire can apply for a replacement Green Card at this time without waiting for the publication of the final rule, if they wish.

If the proposed rule passes, failure to comply with it could affect one's citizenship petition. 

how do i go about getting a green card for my father

My father retired in 2003. He got hurt while traveling to Asia. He was there for almost a year. Customs took his green card. He did not want to sign anything in fear of losing his SS Benefits. The officer told him that this document, would take his green card away, but not affect his social security. How do I go about getting him another green card. He can not survive without those benefits. He initially got his green card in 1969.

Getting another greencard

This depends on whether the green card was wrongfully taken away, or not. If it was not wrongfully taken away, then obtaining a green card on his behalf would be the same as if he never had a green card. On the other hand, former green card holders can sometimes apply for Returning Resident Status. You should request a consultation with an attorney.

keeping my greencard

(Sorry for my english)i am in the US since 08/2007.i have a green card,SSN,DL,bank account and a securd creditcard too.my girlfriend lives in germany(i'm not from germany),she is a german citizen and i want her to be my wife.she has to finish her studies,this means that she can't leave germany for the next 1 1/2 year.that's why i want to move there and live with her till she finish her school and after that we will move here to US. when we will be married i will get the german resident card so i will have the right to work there.i intend to go there as soon as i can,but not before i have some answers.
my problem is that i don't want to lose my green card i don't know how to do that.is obvious since i apply for german residency that i wan't to abandone the US green card even if it's not true.should i ask for a re-entry permit or it's enough to come back after 1 year and go back again?how can i proof my intention that i still want to live in US even if i have german residency?what should i do???
thank you very much,i wait for your answer.


I went to argentina for 2 months and a half last year. I want to visit my mother again and stay in my country for a month. Do I need to fill a Re-Entry permit? Somebody told me that conditional green card holders like me , can be out of the USA up to 3 months only and 6 month is for Permanent Residents. Is this true?

living abroad with GC carrying spouse

I am a teacher who works in the international school system (not military or govt.). My wife is in the process of getting her GC. At the moment, I am living overseas and she is in the States. We have hopes that when she receives her green card that she will be able to live with me in Asia. We will return to the USA during the summers. In the long run, is this possible or are we dreaming? We understand that we will get extra attention if she stays in Asia longer than 6 months. How can we do this kind of life legally? Are interest in the GC is not for her to work but for her to travel freely with me.

living abroad with GC carrying spouse

It would be advisable for her to obtain a reentry permit, when she is in the U.S.

removal proceedings

I recieved my greencard when I was 10 years old at age 15 my parents sent me to my home country to continue school I went to Primary school and High school in my country. Upon graduation I attempted to return to the US for my college education. At the port of entry my green card was taken away and I am now in removal proceedings.

removal proceedings

For this type of unique situation, you should hire an attorney to represent you in the removal proceedings, and to advise you accordingly.

Re-entry=refresh time limit?

i am a greencard holder. and ive been staying outside the U.S. for more than 6 months now, reason being is to finish my studies. i didnt apply for a re-entry permit.
my question is if i enter any U.S. state and stayed there for like a week or so and came back, would that reset my time limit? and is guam already considered part of U.S.?

Resetting time limit

Everytime one enters the U.S., it "restart" the time period for re-entering the U.S. using one's green card. However, the amount of time you actually remain in the U.S. can be taken into account by the Immigration Officer when you seek to reenter again, for purposes of determining whether you actually intended to abandon your U.S. residence.

Maintaining Premanent Resident status while living abroad

I am a permanent resident and plan to work and live abroad for extended period (5 years or more) with my husband and son who are US Citizens. We do plan to come back to live in the States eventually. We'll keep our bank accounts, retirement (401k) accounts, credit cards, driver license but would not have a house/car under our name and would use my husband's parents address as the US address. We are also planning to return twice a year to visit relatives in the US. Would it be advisable for me to obtain re-entry permit, and would it be problematic to keep re-applying for the permit after the 2 year?

Thank you for any input!

Maintaining Premanent Resident status while living abroad

It would be advisable to apply for a reentry permit. It may be possible to obtain several, i.e., many people do that. However, it is ultimately up to the Immigration Inspector to determine whether you intended to abandon your intention of resideing permanently in the U.S.

permanent U.S. resident

I am permanent U.S. resident for almost 3 years my question is: do i need a permit if a go to school in mexico i dont stay over there, icross the border everyday
is there any problem on that

Crossing the border every day

This doesn't sound like the type of situation which would require a reentry permit.

How long can I saty out of country

I am also a greencard holder. I would like to know that.how long can a graan card holder can leave the country? Is it 6 months of 1 year.

One Year Time Limit To use Green Card

A green card holder can use his or her green card and valid foreign passport for up to one year to apply for reentry to the U.S. However, the longer one stays out of the U.S., the more likely that the U.S. Immigration Inspector will question whether one abandoned one's intent to reside permanently in the U.S.

Situation prior to permanent residence

I am a UK citizen, married to a US citizen. We are in London. I have just received my Immigrant Visa and I plan to go to New York before the end of the year for business reasons. This will, I believe lead to my Visa being endorsed and my Green card will be sent off.

We will only move back to the US some time before the Fall of 2008 - certainly in less than a year from now - and we might make several short trips to the US before that time. For one thing, we might go there to look at/purchase a place to live.

Should I be concerned about my status/do anything to protect my Green Card? I am 100% sure we will move back within 1 year from my first entry so reentry permit does not seem called for but I am not sure.

Once settled in the US, we will stay there. Maybe holidays in Europe but no long stays outside the US are anticipated

exact period for greencard holder

Dear sir,
I would like to know that what is the exact period that a greencard holder can stay out of US.
And if it's more than its require what I have to do.

Thank you for you input.....

Petitioned parents in the Phils. to stay longer due to fracture

I petitioned my parents for green cards. They came here April 2006 and went home to the Phils. last June
2007. They had round trip tickets and scheduled to come back here on Dec. 1, 2007 but my mom fell and fractured her left knee which required surgery (actually today, 11/20/07). I talked to the surgeon and it will take 6 weeks for the mold cast to stay and
another 6-8 for rehab. Can they stay until April 2007 without applying for a re-entry permit? Can I apply one for them here in Illinois?



leaving for a short time

hey i see everyone talking about staying out of the us for months but nobody talks short term. my passport expired and i want to attend a wedding in my home country this deceember. can i travel to and from on my greencard alone? plus i plan to apply for citizenship next year. will that be a problem? i only plan to stay about 2 weeks, a month at the most

Hi! My fiancéé is going

Hi! My fiancéé is going back to Us soon and he has the green card but during his last visit he could only stay in US for two days because he was there to take his brother's body back home (he died while in US). He did not have time to file for the rentry permission. However, when entering the country the officer in question was interrogating him in a small room and said their discussion would be filed in the computer for next time. My fiancéé is studying abroad and has a certificate from the school that he is a student and that's why he has to stay abroad several months at a time. Now I am afraid that when he goes they will take his card away. What do you think?

Green Card Holder with some questions


I am married to a US Citizen and have been living in the US for 1 year of our marriage. My husband was offered a job in the Netherlands and we are here currently. My conditional green card will be expiring on June 08 and we are planning to file the I-751 by March. We can definitely fly back to the US for the interview, etc. My questions are:

1. I will be out of the country for 8 months by March, can I still re-enter the US via the Green Card?
2. Since we live in the Netherlands (this is only contractual and will end by March 09), is it okay if I get a round trip ticket that will end outside the US?
3. Can I apply for a re-entry permit even if I am outside the US?

Thank You for your help.


my mom stay out of usa more than 3 years because she was sick now she ok from doctor to travel. But she dont apply for reentry prmit onthat time. What can happen when she want to travel to usa.how to reentry in usa.

Special Immigrant Status: Returning Resident

If someone who has a green card is unable to return to the U.S. in a timely manner, it may be possible to obtain special permission to return (e.g., returning resident status) if she can prove that she was unable to return for reasons beyond her control. For example, the U.S. Embassy explains the following about "Lawful Permanent Residents" ("LPR", i.e., green card holders) and "Conditional Residents" ("CR"):

An LPR or CR who has remained outside the United States for longer than twelve months, or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit, will require a new immigrant visa to reenter the United States and resume permanent residence.

A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of special immigrant status as a returning resident to an alien who has remained outside the United States due to circumstances beyond his/her control. While being granted returning resident status eliminates the requirement that an immigrant visa petition be filed on the individual’s behalf with the USCIS, the applicant is required to establish his/her eligibility for an immigrant visa, attend a medical and pay a new set of visa processing fees of $400 and medical fees.

Important: Conditional residents of the United States who fail to file an application to have conditional resident status removed are required to apply for a new immigrant visa. They are not eligible to apply for special immigrant status as a returning resident.

The U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident relative is required to file a new immigrant visa petition on his/her behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident in the United Kingdom should contact the USCIS office at the Embassy for further information. Those resident in the United States should contact their local USCIS office.


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