Obtaining lawful immigration status can be a daunting process. Once you finally achieve that hard-earned status, you’ll want to do everything you can to protect it. But did you know that there are numerous ways to lose lawful, permanent resident status? At Landerholm Immigration, one of the common ways we’ve seen our clients lose their status is through green card abandonment. What makes this especially frightening for our clients is that they do this unintentionally. If you’re a permanent resident, but you’re going to be abroad for an extended period, you need to know the risks involved with green card abandonment. Consulting with our green card attorneys can help you understand your rights and mitigate these risks.

When does a green card become invalid?

An immigrant can lose their green card status if they intentionally abandoned the green card by leaving the U.S. for an extended period, usually a year or more. However, green card holders who have left and then re-entered the U.S. after only 180 days, or six months, can run into problems reentering.

When does the issue of green card abandonment typically occur?

Most immigrants who encounter this issue come up against problems with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents when returning to the U.S. at a port of entry. CBP officers will ask questions about why the individual was abroad for so long, the reasons for their trip, and why they are returning to the U.S. CBP officers, by opening this line of questioning, are trying to determine if the individual intends to use the U.S. as their primary country of residence. Officers might ask the following questions to returning green card holders:

  • Where did you travel?
  • How long were you away?
  • Why were you traveling?
  • Why are you returning to the U.S. now?
  • Did you maintain any ties to the U.S. while abroad (owning or renting a home, filing income taxes, etc.)?

Officers may believe that you have abandoned your lawful permanent resident status based on your answers. They may request that you fill out and sign Form I-407. This is a form that establishes a Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Do not sign this, or anything, without first consulting an immigration lawyer!

It’s critical that green card holders and other noncitizens understand that they do not have to sign any documents CBP presents. If CBP officers stop you and they want you to sign Form I-407, it is imperative that you do not sign and that you contact a green card lawyer asap to protect your rights and retain your lawful status.

By not signing this form, you are not voluntarily relinquishing your permanent resident status. The CBP officer may decide to refer you to the Immigration Court instead so that they can start the removal proceedings. This does not mean that deportation is inevitable. Our team of highly skilled and experienced green card lawyers can assist you during this process, protect your rights, and help you avoid deportation. Please call our law offices today at 510-488-1020 and see what we can do for your case.