Written by attorney Rehan Shams Alimohammad

How to maintain your lawful permanent resident status

A permanent resident remains an alien in the United States. Therefore, it is still possible for a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to lose his or her permanent resident status.

There are several ways in which a permanent resident can lose their adjustment of status. Some of these ways are described below.

Permanent resident abandons residence

If a lawful permanent resident (LPR) leaves the U.S. and it is decided that they have abandoned residence here, they may lose their status. Loss of LPR status could occur if the LPR accepts a permanent job abroad, if the LPR stays outside the U.S. for more than one year without a valid re-entry Permit, or if the LPR is otherwise found to have abandoned the PR's residence in the U.S.

In determining whether you have abandoned your American residence, the DHS will consider a number of factors. You may be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status if you:

  • Move to another country intending to live there permanently.
  • Remain outside of the U.S. for more than one year without obtaining a reentry permit or returning resident visa. However, when determining whether your status has been abandoned, any length of absence from the U.S. may be considered, even if it is less than one year.
  • Remain outside of the U.S. for more than two years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa.
  • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the U.S. for any period.
  • Declare yourself a "nonimmigrant" on your tax returns.

Immigrants may lose resident status when they abandon the United States as their permanent home. Without the support of a continuing legal resident status, the green card becomes invalid even if the expiration date has not passed yet. Immigrants should consult an attorney to ensure that their travel or other plans do not legally indicate an intention to abandon resident status.

Criminal convictions

You may also lose your permanent resident status if you are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or other serious offenses. The quickest path to deportation is conviction of a serious crime. Serious crimes include, but are not limited to, those involving moral turpitude, controlled substances, and prostitution. Minor drug offenses may result in loss of permanent resident status as well. Due to the importance of the green card, if a holder is charged with a crime, they should consult an attorney and seek professional legal help immediately. And, if not immediately picked up by DHS or placed in removal proceedings, you should definitely consult an attorney before traveling outside of the country. Often times, DHS is not aware of a person’s crime until they travel and attempt to re-enter.

Examples of crimes that may affect your permanent resident status include, but are not limited to:

Crimes of moral turpitude – This covers many types of crimes and is usually a crime with an intent to steal or defraud; a crime where physical harm is done or threatened; a crime where serious physical harm is caused by reckless behavior; or a crime of sexual misconduct. This definition is changed almost daily by the courts and depends on the particular state law that is violated.

Multiple criminal convictions

  • Conviction of two or more offenses regardless of whether the conviction was in a single trial, for which the combined sentences to confinement/jail were five years or more.

  • Conviction of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, not arising out of a single scheme.

Serious crimes including the following:

  • A crime defined as an "aggravated felony," (under Immigration Law) which includes crimes of violence that are felonies with a 1-year prison term

  • Murder

  • Terrorist activities

  • Rape

  • Sexual assault on a child

  • Trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people

  • High Speed Flight – Non-citizens convicted of a crime relating to high speed flight from an immigration checkpoint

  • Drug Abusers and Addicts

  • Prostitution

Lack of eligibility for permanent residence

You may also lose your status if it is determined that you were ineligible for lawful permanent resident status at the time you received it. This can happen if you received your permanent residence through fraud, etc.

Losing US citizenship

There are a few ways in which US citizenship can be lost including:

  • Serving in the armed forces of a foreign country if those armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the US
  • Making a formal renunciation of US citizenship before a US consular officer or diplomat in a foreign country
  • Committing an act of treason against the US

Each of these acts, however, must have been performed voluntarily and with the intent for renouncing that citizenship. Note, that becoming a citizen of another country (dual citizenship) does not lose a person’s U.S. citizenship unless certain strict requirements are met.

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