Steps to Take to Avoid Abandoning Permanent Residency
By Anish Vashistha
Los Angeles , CA
Many Pakistanis who hold lawful-permanent-resident status in the United States believe that provided they do not remain out of the United States for six months at a time, they are safe from losing such status. However, the United States Department of Homeland Security does not follow such a rule because whether someone has maintained permanent residency is more about intent and less about number of days spent outside the United States on any given trip.
For example, a permanent resident who has taken multiple five-month trips out of the country separated by a mere couple of weeks of stay in the United States could find himself/ herself having to appear before a United States Immigration Court with an allegation of abandonment of permanent residency. Focusing more on the intent of the foreign national instead of the actual days out of the country gives the United States government more flexibility in identifying permanent residents who are in actuality residing in another country and only simply visiting the United States.
However, such flexibility also gives the permanent resident the tools to show that he/ she never intended to reside in another country. Such tools include applying for a reentry permit while in the United States prior to a long trip, applying for special visa only for permanent residents while in a foreign country during a long trip, or having the appropriate documentation when returning to the United States after a long trip. Despite the existence of such tools, many permanent residents simply believe that if the permanent-resident card is still valid, then he/ she has nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, a permanent-resident card is simply evidence that one is a permanent resident, but in and of itself, it does not make one a permanent resident.
Planning ahead is critical in such situations. As discussed above, the United States government has provided permanent residents tools that they can access before, during, and after a long trip if they plan accordingly. If one is aware that he/ she will be taking a long trip, perhaps for an academic or work-related purpose, then he/ she should apply for a reentry permit prior to the trip keeping in mind that he/ she will also have to attend the required fingerprinting appointment prior to departure. Even if one does not apply for such a reentry permit prior to departure, he/ she can apply for a returning-resident visa at a consulate abroad.
Finally, sometimes trips last longer than initially anticipated because of a number of factors including health-, business-, and safety-related reasons and because one’s attention is preoccupied with such factors rather than potential immigration consequences. Even in such situations, one can still obtain admission to the United States if he/ she has appropriate documentation to support the claim that he/ she intended only to take a brief trip, but for circumstances beyond his/ her control, the trip lasted longer than expected. To ensure one is admitted following a long trip, expert legal advice should be obtained prior to returning.
(The author, Anish Vashistha, is a licensed attorney with a nationwide immigration law practice. He has helped several Pakistani nationals obtain or maintain legal status in the United States. He may be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 433-7016, by email at Consult@HazanyLaw.com, or on the web at www.Lawyers-Immigration.biz/immigration.html)