Rules for Keeping Your Green Card
Now that you have your green card, there are some important facts to keep in mind so you are
never at risk of losing it. United States immigration law requires that you never abandon your
intention of continuing to reside permanently in the United States. Some people believe that
maintaining this “intention” is a simple matter of returning to the country once a year – not true!
Many unfortunate green card holders who relied solely on this method have had their cards
Luckily, there are several other precautions that you can take to reduce the risk of losing your green card, which we have outlined below. It is very important that you take some of these precautions, or your green card may be at risk the next time you leave or enter the country. The U.S. Immigration Service has the ability to question your intention to maintain permanent U.S.
residence any time you leave the country, which means that if the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) believes that you intend to reside permanently in a country other than the United
States, they can take your green card away from you on the spot. Since that is likely not an
outcome you want, please take the time to review the list below, and remember to be doing some of these items in addition to returning to the United States each year.
1. Obtain a Reentry Permit
• If you will be leaving the U.S. for more than one year, we recommend that you obtain
a Reentry Permit prior to leaving. A Reentry Permit tells DHS that you intend to
maintain your U.S. permanent resident status despite your extended absence from the
--The application must be filed when you are physically in the U.S.
--You will be required to have your fingerprints taken in the U.S.
approximately one month after the application is filed.
--The Reentry Permit is valid for a 2 year period.
• While it is possible to renew your Reentry Permit multiple times, it is possible that
DHS will eventually deny the application.
2. File Tax Returns
• You should always file U.S. Resident tax return, in addition to any other applicable
state, city, or local taxes (be sure to file resident returns, rather than non-resident
• Filing a return does not necessarily mean that you need to pay U.S. income tax – it
only means that you are declaring your worldwide income, even if most or all of that
income is exempt from U.S. taxation. If you are at all uncertain about whether you
owe taxes, you may want to consult a tax adviser or accountant.
• Make sure you keep copies of all tax returns you file as a resident, and, just as
important, bring copies of your returns with you each time you enter the United States.
3. Maintain a U.S. Address
• If you don’t have a U.S. address where you personally reside, use the address of a
friend or relative in the United States.
• It is not a good idea to use the address of a resort or hotel as your U.S. address– it
should be a place of residence.
4. Maintain U.S. Bank Accounts
• Keep any U.S. bank accounts open and active. It is better if you are regularly using
your U.S. accounts– for example, you can be paid through a U.S. bank account, in
U.S. dollars, even if you are on assignment overseas.
5. Maintain a U.S. Driver’s License
• If you have a U.S. Driver’s license, remember to renew it regularly.
• Make sure that the address listed on your license is the same address that is indicated
on any immigration documents.
• You should also carry your license with you each time you enter the U.S.
6. Maintain U.S. Credit Card Accounts
7. Maintain Ownership/Lease of U.S. Property
• If at all possible, continue ownership/lease of any U.S. property you have, including
houses, condominiums, business, automobiles, etc.
• If you are assigned abroad for work, you might want to rent, rather than sell, your U.S.
residence while you are away.
8. Document Reasons for Any Long Stays Abroad
• If you are given a long work assignment abroad, make sure you obtain a written
employment contract or letter from your employer before you leave the U.S., clearly
stating the terms and length of your employment outside the United States. Carry this
letter with you when you travel.
• If the employment will lead to a transfer back to the U.S., or a U.S. based affiliate of
the foreign employer, the contract or letter should include this fact.
9. Apply for and Carry a U.S. Social Security Card
• If you have not done so already, apply for the type of social security card which
permits you to work in the United States.
• Maintain your social security card, and carry it with you when you enter the U.S.
10. Register for Selective Service (Military Conscription)
• For those who are of applicable age, make sure you are registered with selective
11. Keep Your Green Card Valid
• Renew your green card when it expires.
• Remember that children who reach the age of 14 must file an application to replace
their green card, unless the prior card will expire before they reach age 16.
What to Avoid:
Some activities may unintentionally create the appearance of having abandoned your intention to reside permanently in the United States. Here’s what you should avoid:
• Do not enter the U.S. on any non-immigrant visa. For example, if you stay outside the
U.S. for longer than one year, without having obtained a reentry permit (as recommended
above), do not use a tourist visa to enter the country. Instead, apply to the U.S. consulate
for a Returning Resident Visa.
• Do not arrive in the U.S. via a chartered air carrier on which nearly all passengers are
• Do not enter the U.S. with a spouse or children who are neither citizens nor green card
holders, especially if they will only be in the U.S. for a short time.
• Do not arrive at a port of entry that primarily functions as the gateway to a resort area.
• Do not enter the U.S. with a round-trip ticket for which the final destination is outside the U.S.
If you follow the guidelines above, you should not have any trouble keeping
always, if you have questions about whether any of your activities are putting
risk, feel free to get in touch with our office.