United States: Loss of permanent residence status, including whether it is automatically lost as a result of remaining outside the US for a period of time; whether proof of such a loss is issued by authorities; procedure for cancelling permanent residence status granted to a refugee, including whether submitting USCIS form I-407 is sufficient; requirements and procedures for reacquiring permanent residence status (2014-November 2016)
1. Loss or Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status
The website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that once a person becomes a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), also known as a Green Card holder, LPR status is maintained until the person applies and completes the naturalization process or until the LPR status is lost or abandoned (US 17 Feb. 2016a).
According to the same source, a person "will lose [their] permanent resident status if an immigration judge issues a final removal order" against them (ibid.).
USCIS reports that an individual "may lose" their LPR status by intentionally abandoning it, or, the person may be found to have abandoned their status by:
- Moving to another country with the intention of living there permanently;
- Failing to file income tax returns while living outside of the US for any period of time;
- Declaring oneself a 'nonimmigrant' on one's US tax returns (ibid.).
According to the website of the Chodorow Law Offices, which is a law firm based in Beijing specializing in US immigration matters (Chodorow Law Offices n.d.), "if it appears [that a person has] abandoned [their] Lawful Permanent Resident status and [they] are not willing to voluntarily give it up, the [Customs and Border Protection, CBP] officer may refer [the person] to Immigration Court for a judge to determine whether [the person has] lost [their] status (ibid. 20 Feb. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
1.1 Lawful Permanent Resident Status and Absence from the US
The USCIS webpage about maintaining LPR status indicates that remaining outside of the US for an extended period of time may result in a person losing LPR status, unless the intention of the departure is a temporary absence, which can be demonstrated by showing: the reason for the trip, the length of the intended absence, and any events that may have prolonged the person's absence (US 17 Feb. 2016a).
The website of the USCIS provides the following information on whether travel outside the US affects a person's LPR status:
Permanent residents are free to travel outside the United States, and temporary or brief travel usually does not affect your permanent resident status. If it is determined, however, that you did not intend to make the United States your permanent home, you will be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status. A general guide used is whether you have been absent from the United States for more than a year. Abandonment may be found to occur in trips of less than a year where it is believed you did not intend to make the United States your permanent residence. While brief trips abroad generally are not problematic, the officer may consider criteria such as whether your intention was to visit abroad only temporarily, whether you maintained U.S. family and community ties, maintained U.S[.] employment, filed U.S. income taxes as a resident, or otherwise established your intention to return to the United States as your permanent home. Other factors that may be considered include whether you maintained a U.S. mailing address, kept U.S. bank accounts and a valid U.S. driver’s license, own property or run a business in the United States, or any other evidence that supports the temporary nature of your absence. (US 17 Feb. 2016b)
The website of Chodorow Law Offices indicates that if a person spends more than six months outside of the US, they risk abandonment of their LPR status, noting that "this is especially true after multiple prolonged absences or after a prior warning by a [US CBP Officer] at the airport" (Chodorow Law Offices 10 Feb. 2016).
According to Chodorow Law Offices, in terms of how long a person with LPR status can stay abroad, the website states that "there is no specific time limit for what 'temporary' means" (ibid.). The same source provides a definition of a "temporary" stay abroad from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
we hold that a permanent resident returns from a 'temporary visit abroad' only when (a) the permanent resident’s visit is for 'a period relatively short, fixed by some early event,' or (b) the permanent resident’s visit will terminate upon the occurrence of an event having a reasonable possibility of occurring within a relatively short period of time. If as in (b), the length of the visit is contingent upon the occurrence of an event and is not fixed in time and if the event does not occur within a relatively short period of time, the visit will be considered a 'temporary visit abroad' only if the alien has a continuous, uninterrupted intention to return to the United States during the entirety of his visit. (ibid.)
USCIS notes that obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS prior to departure, or a returning resident visa (SB-1), obtained from a US consulate abroad, may assist a lawful permanent resident to demonstrate that their absence from the US was intended to be temporary in nature (US 17 Feb. 2016a). According to sources, the re-entry permit is valid for up to two years from the date of issuance (ibid. Oct. 2013; Chodorow Law Offices 10 Feb. 2016). USCIS indicates that a re-entry permit is obtained by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, while physically present in the US and no fewer than 60 days before leaving the US (US Oct. 2013).
According to the Chodorow Law Offices, having a re-entry permit does not guarantee that the permanent resident will be able to re-enter the US (Chodorow Law Offices 10 Feb. 2016). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an associate at Niren and Associates, a Toronto-based firm specializing in US and Canadian immigration law, also stated that "after a Permanent Resident of the United States has been outside the US for more than one year without having an approved I-131 in hand, that individual will have to make an active application as a Returning Resident (SB-1)" (Attorney 24 Nov. 2016). The same source notes that in such cases, the reasons for one’s absence must be “fully documented” and demonstrate “a valid reason that is outside of the individual’s control” (ibid.).
Copies of Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (Attachment 1), and Instructions for Form I-131 (Attachment 2) are attached to this Response.
2. Procedure on Voluntarily Abandoning Lawful Permanent Residence Status
The website of USCIS explains that Form I-407 is used to voluntarily abandon one's LPR status (US 9 Mar. 2016). Sources report that there is no filing fee for Form I-407 (The National Law Review 20 Apr. 2015; US 9 Mar. 2016). The website of the US Embassy and Consulates in Canada states that "there are several ways to abandon LPR status, most of which do not require an individual to appear at a US consulate or embassy" (ibid. n.d.). According to the same source, relevant forms can be submitted by mail to USCIS or at a port of entry (ibid.). A copy of Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Residence (Attachment 3) and Instructions for Form I-407 (Attachment 4) are attached to this Response.
Information provided on the website of the US Embassy and Consulates in Canada further states that if a person wishes to abandon their LPR status in person before a Consular Officer, but does not wish to apply for a non-immigrant visa, an appointment with a Consular Officer must be made (ibid.). Such an appointment is made by emailing a consulate or embassy with the subject line "Request for Appointment to Abandon LPR Status" and providing the following details: full name; date of birth; place of birth, including city and country; and the "A" file number as listed on the Alien Registration Receipt Card, which is also known as the I-551 or Green Card (ibid.). The same source indicates that the applicant is required to bring the following to the appointment with the Consular Officer:
- Completed I-407 Form, which is to be signed during the appointment (ibid.). The website of USCIS explains that when Form I-407 is submitted by mail, it is imperative to sign the form at "'Part 1, Item Number 13.a., Signature of Alien'" (ibid. 9 Mar. 2016);
- The Alien Registration Receipt Card (ibid. n.d.). If the card has been lost, stolen, mutilated or not available, it needs to be indicated in Part 1, item 11.b (ibid.);
- Any other issued USCIS booklets and cards, if applicable (ibid.);
- Proof of sole legal custody if both parents do not sign Form I-407, in the case of minors (ibid.).
Sources indicate that the abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident status is irrevocable (ibid.; Knapp n.d.). The website of the US Embassy and Consulates in Canada explains that once the LPR status is abandoned, the previous status as a non-immigrant applies (US n.d.). According to the attorney at Niren & Associates, the request to abandon one's LPR status is essentially not revocable, "unless it can be proven that the individual did not voluntarily relinquish the permanent residen[t] status" (Attorney 24 Nov. 2016).
Information on alternative or specific procedures for abandoning the LPR status granted to a refugee could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
3. Proof of Loss of Permanent Resident Status
The USCIS website states that following the submission of the I-407 form, USCIS "will then update [the applicant's] records to show that [the person is] no longer an LPR" (9 Mar. 2016). Concerning whether US authorities issue documents proving a loss of LPR status, the attorney indicated that "there should be such a notice provided but it is not always the case, particularly with cases [where LPR status is] 'voluntarily relinquished' at a Port-of-Entry" (Attorney 24 Nov. 2016).
According to an article posted on 20 April 2015 in The National Law Review, a print and online resource providing legal analyses (The National Law Review n.d.), once the LPR status is abandoned, the "[C]onsular [O]fficer will provide the individual with a formal signed copy of the [I-407] Form" (ibid. 20 Apr. 2015). The same source indicates that:
the official signed [I-407 Form], received after the consular appointment/interview, demonstrates the individual's clear intent of relinquishing immigrant/[L]awful [P]ermanent [R]esident status and can be used when filing for future visas to enter the [US] (ibid.).
An article by Kyle Knapp, a US immigration attorney whose practices focuses on helping organizations to hire authorized non-US citizens to work in the US (Nolo n.d.a.), which was published on the Nolo website for "consumer friendly legal information" (ibid. n.d.b.), similarly states that the stamped copy of the completed I-407 Form received at the appointment with the Consular Officer is needed for future trips to the US (Knapp n.d.). Knapp further states that in cases where the documents required to abandon LPR status are not submitted in person, it is important to keep copies of the correspondence, the completed I-407 Form and the Alien Registration Receipt Card (ibid.).
4. Reacquiring Lawful Permanent Resident Status
The website of the US Embassy and Consulates in Canada explains that abandoning one's LPR status "does not affect [one's] ability to apply to immigrate to the [US] at some future time" and that "the usual application process" would have to begin anew (US n.d.). Similarly, Knapp indicates that "surrendering the green card does not preclude someone from making another application for [LPR] status in the future," but that this would require the person to "start over from square one" (Knapp n.d.). According to information provided by the US Embassy and Consulates in Canada, "an individual who relinquishes [L]awful [P]ermanent [R]esident status must qualify again for such status" (US n.d.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Attorney, Niren & Associates, Toronto. 24 November 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
Chodorow Law Offices. 10 February 2016. "Green Card Holders Who Stay Abroad Over 6 Months Risk Abandonment." [Accessed 24 Nov. 2016]
Chodorow Law Offices. N.d. "Contact Us." [Accessed 25 Nov. 2016]
Knapp, Kyle. N.d. "How to Voluntarily Abandon Lawful Permanent Residence (a Green Card)." [Accessed 24 Nov. 2016]
The National Law Review. 20 April 2015. Ali Brodie. "Abandoning Lawful Permanent Resident Status: Procedure & Considerations." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2016]
The National Law Review. N.d. "FAQs and All About the National Law Review."[Accessed 22 Nov. 2016]
Nolo. N.d.a. "Kyle Knapp." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016]
Nolo. N.d.b. "About US." [Accessed 24 Nov. 2016]
United States (US). 9 March 2016. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2016]
United States (US). 17 February 2016a. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Maintaining Permanent Residence." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2016]
United States (US). 17 February 2016b. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "International Travel as a Permanent Resident." [Accessed 24 Nov. 2016]
United States (US). October 2013. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "I am a Permanent Resident. How Do I Get a Reentry Permit." [Accessed 24 Nov. 2016]
United States (US). N.d. US Embassy and Consulates in Canada. "Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Status." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2016]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Benach Collopy, LLP; Davies & Associates, LLC; Fox Rothschild LLP; Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC; Law Office of Geri N. Kahn; Law Office of Negar Achtari; US – Citizenship and Immigration Services, Embassy in Ottawa.
- United States (US). N.d. Citizenship and Immigration Services. N.d. "Application for Travel Document - Form I-131." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016]
- United States (US). N.d. Citizenship and Immigration Services. N.d. "Instructions for Form I-131." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2012]
- United States (US). N.d. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Record of Abandonment of Lawful Residence Status - Form I-407." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016]
- United States (US). N.d. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Instructions for Form I-407." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016]