Proper Care & Feeding of a Green Card


Now that you have your green card, you must take care of it. If you do not, there is always a risk your green card will be revoked. United States immigration law requires that you maintain your intention of continuing to reside permanently in the United States. Returning to the U.S. annually is not enough, as many unfortunate green card holders who relied solely on this method have had their cards revoked.

There are several precautions that you can take to reduce the risk of losing your green card, outlined below. The U.S. Immigration Service may question your intention to maintain permanent U.S. residence any time you leave the country, revoking your green card on the spot if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) believes that you intend to reside permanently in a country other than the United States.

Recommended Precautions:

1. Obtain a Reentry Permit

If you will be leaving the U.S. for more than six months, we recommend that you obtain a Reentry Permit prior to leaving. A Reentry Permit indicates to DHS that you intend to maintain your U.S. permanent resident status despite your extended absence from the U.S.

- 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 you may 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 returns, in addition to any other applicable state, city, or local taxes (be sure to file resident returns, rather than non-resident returns).

Filing a return does not necessarily require paying 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 should 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

You must maintain a U.S. address.

It is not a good idea to use the address of an office, 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 service.

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 or ESTA 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 nonimmigrant.

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 have questions about whether any of your activities are putting your green card at risk, feel free to get in touch with our office.


Photo by Khara Woods on Unsplash.

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