The most common complaint we hear from new permanent residents and green card holders is that they have trouble with immigration officers when they return to the U.S. after spending an extended amount of time abroad. Specifically, spending more than six months abroad will cause officers to become suspicious. The officers feel that permanent residents who spend more than six months abroad are abusing their green cards and suspect that they may not settling permanently in the United States.
In order to show the immigration officers that they intend to maintain their permanent residence, there are eight major steps that green card holders can take to minimize their trouble upon reentering the border:
- Maintain and use U.S. savings and checking bank accounts. Simply having a bank account is not sufficient; one must use it periodically so that bank statements show activity for that account.
- Maintain a U.S. address. Ideally, owning a residence in the U.S. shows that the permanent resident wishes to make the U.S. his or her permanent home. However, if you do not own a home, it is perfectly alright to use a friend or relative’s home. Make sure to have all mail delivered to this address including documents from USCIS.
- Obtain a U.S. driver’s license. The address on this license should be the same as that listed on all official documents, such as documents received from USCIS.
- Obtain a credit card from a U.S. institution. Use this credit card periodically so that the credit card statements show some activity for the account.
- File U.S. income tax returns. Tax returns should be filed every year, even if the income you are receiving is from outside the U.S. These tax returns should be filed as a “resident.” Filing as a non-resident is viewed in a very negative light because the permanent resident is personally claiming that he or she is not a resident.
- Maintain correspondence with family and friends in the U.S. This can be shown by emails, letters, or even records of phone calls to friends and family residing in the U.S.
- Show family ties to the U.S. Having a child, parent, spouse, or other close family member residing in the U.S. shows that you eventually plan to make the U.S. your permanent home.
- Maintain social or professional memberships. Active social or professional memberships, such as golf memberships, show that the permanent resident was outside of the U.S. only temporarily and plans to live here long term. Active memberships can be shown by paying fees in a timely fashion, receiving journals, attending annual meetings, etc.
These steps should be taken by a permanent resident who will be travelling outside of the U.S. for any period between six months and one year. Staying out of the country for more than one year requires a re-entry permit.
Taking these steps does not guarantee that the permanent resident will have complete ease when reentering the U.S., but will make it more likely. This list is not exhaustive, so any other documents showing the permanent resident’s intent to settle in the U.S. will be beneficial.
The goal is for permanent residents to demonstrate that they intend to make the United States their permanent home. The aforementioned steps will help you show that you consider the U.S. your home and that you plan to move to the U.S. on a permanent basis.
If you need assistance figuring out which steps you need to take, please call Jatoi & de Kirby, APC at 1-415-221-2800. Our experienced immigration lawyers are can guide you through the intricacies of immigration law, and can take the worry out of your travels abroad.