Maintaining Your Green Card Status

green_cardCongratulations on getting a green card!  Now, please read on to learn how to maintain it.

The “green card” (Form I-551), is proof of your permanent resident status. The card is valid for 10 years and it must be renewed. The permanent resident status itself, however, does not expire.

If you obtain U.S. residence through your recent marriage to a U.S. citizen, or a green card holder, you will be issued a “conditional” green card valid for only two years, unlike 10 year permanent green cards that are issued to permanent citizens. A conditional permanent resident has the same right and responsibilities as a permanent resident, and must file a petition to remove the condition during the 90 days before the card expires in order to keep his/her permanent resident status.  Simply put, the conditional green card cannot be renewed. The conditions must be removed or you will lose your permanent resident status.

As a green card holder (a permanent resident of the United States) you have the right to live and work permanently anywhere in the U.S.  To maintain your green card status and prepare to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must:

(a) Not leave the United States for any extended period of time, nor move to another country with the intent to live there permanently,
(b) File your federal, state, and -if applicable- local income tax returns, as a resident
(c) Register with the Selective Service, (if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26) , and
(d) Give your new address to the Department of Homeland Security within 10 days each time you move.

In general, you may lose your permanent resident status (1) If you are found to have abandoned your permanent resident status, or (2) If you commit a crime that makes you removable from the United States under the law.

1-) You must maintain your green card to continue to live and work in the U.S. and eventually become a naturalized U.S. citizen. If you have been absent from the U.S. for a significant amount of time (generally, 180 days or more) you may be questioned when you return to the U.S. by an immigration officer at the port of entry who will then determine if you have abandoned your permanent resident status. Factors that goes into the immigration officer’s determination include: your reason for going out of the U.S.; the amount of time you have spent outside the U.S.; whether or not you have a definite date for the end of your stay outside the U.S.; whether your close family lives in the U.S. or abroad; the location and nature of your employment; whether you consider the U.S. your permanent resident home, which includes a U.S. address, owning or renting property, bank accounts, credit cards, driver’s license, memberships in U.S. organizations and storage bills for property left behind.

If you have not been outside the U.S. for more than a year, your green card serves as your entry document. If you are going to be absent from the U.S. for more than one year, the presumption is that you have the intention of abandoning your permanent residence, unless you have previously filed for a reentry permit on Form I-131, while you are in the United States. However, this does not guarantee admission to the U.S. and a finding of no abandonment of your permanent resident status, but it is rather a declaration, which, in return, helps establish the permanent resident’s intent not to abandon status. When you return to the U.S., if the immigration official doubts that the U.S. is your permanent residence, he or she may take away your green card. If this happens, you will have the right to a hearing before an immigration judge.

2- ) You would also be in danger of losing your green card and becoming deportable if you commit certain crimes, as described under the Section 237 or 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  Many crimes that carry minor penalties in criminal court can lead to deportation proceedings, or in certain circumstances, can result losing your eligibility to become a naturalized US citizen.  In short, immigrants who are not citizens yet, should be very careful in avoiding conflict with the law which could lead in a criminal charge. Furthermore, you should not plead guilty to a criminal charge without first consulting with an attorney who knows the immigration consequences and what possibly could happen to your legal immigration status as a result.

For more information contact us. We look forward to serving you.

Gokhan Yazici

Gokhan Yazici is an experienced attorney and counsellor practicing in the state of New York. He is specialized in U.S. Immigration Law, Corporate & Business Law, Business Transactions, Commercial Litigation, International Trade & U.S. Customs Law. Mr. Yazici holds an LL.B. degree from Istanbul University Law School and an LL.M. degree from Temple University James Beasley School of Law.