Rights available to Green Card Holders upon returning to the United States

As a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), also known as a Green Card holder, you are free to travel outside the United States without affecting your permanent resident status. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) screens all travelers returning to the U.S. To determine abandonment, CBP would consider the length of time you were abroad, the frequency with which you travel, and whether abandonment is found based on the belief that you did not intend to make the U.S. your permanent residence. Considering the increase in border security, knowing your rights as a LPR is more vital than ever.

Like all other travelers, LPRs too are subject to inspection by CBP upon return to the U.S. CBP’s screening determines whether you are a “returning resident” or whether you are an “arriving alien” seeking admission to the U.S. CBP shall not regard you as an arriving alien unless you:

  • Have abandoned or renounced your LPR status;
  • Have been absent from the U.S. for more than 180 days in one period;
  • Have engaged in unlawful activity after leaving the U.S.;
  • Have departed the U.S. while under legal proceeding which seeks your removal as an alien from the U.S. (including removal proceedings under the INA and extradition proceedings);
  • Have committed a criminal offense under INA §212(a)(2), unless you were granted relief under INA §212(h) or §240A(a); or
  • Are attempting to enter at a time or place other than the one designated by immigration officers or have not been admitted to the U.S. after inspection and authorization by immigration officers.

If you are a LPR who is deemed to be seeking admission in the U.S., you can be charged as an arriving alien removable from the U.S. As such, your due process rights as a LPR entitles you to a hearing before an immigration judge. It is important to know that the only way you can be stripped of your LPR status is when an order of removal is issued by the immigration judge in which the government proves abandonment of LPR status by clear and convincing evidence. In other words, you cannot lose your LPR status simply because of extensive time spent outside the U.S.

If the CBP officer, at the Port of Entry, determines abandonment, s/he may try to urge you to sign a Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. However, your refusal to sign the form does not negatively impact your status. Upon your refusal to sign the Form I-407, the only action CBP can take is to issue you a Notice to Appear (NTA) for a hearing in front an immigration judge where the CBP will have to prove that you abandoned your residence due to a long stay outside the U.S.  In the worst-case scenario, even if you have signed the Form I-407, you still retain your right to request a hearing before the immigration judge to prove your intent to maintain permanent residence in the U.S.

In the new age of increased border security, it is important to know your rights as a LPR when traveling abroad. If you have any questions, we invite you to contact our office to receive consultation on traveling abroad.