Hello, I’m Vaughan de Kirby. I’m an investment immigration attorney based here in San Francisco. A question that frequently come up, is I’m a legal permanent resident, I’m a Green Card holder, and I have been absent from the United States for more than 180 days, which is six months, what should I expect when I enter with Customs and what do I need to know?
You need to know if you’ve been absent from the United States for more than six months, you will be questioned by Customs. They have broad latitude on how they may treat you. They may give you a warning, which would be the best way. No.2 something that’s very important for you to know, they may ask you to sign Form 407, which is an abandonment of your permanent resident status; you should not sign this form. They will try to convince you to sign the form, but you should not sign the form. And there’re no consequences for your refusal to sign the form. It’s very important for you to know that mere absence from the United States, in and of itself, does not make you excludable from the United States with your Green Card. That can only happen if the government is able to prove by clear and convincing evidence that you’ve abandoned your place in the United States.
So No.1 be very careful. Be prepared. It’s always better to talk to your attorney before. However, it’s important to know that your attorney cannot represent you at Customs. And even if you were separated and questioned at Customs, your attorney is not necessarily allowed to be present. So it’s a good idea to be aware of these things in advance. Remember don’t sign Form 407, but if you do, don’t panic, see your attorney, because you still have the right to a hearing in front of a judge.
Now backing up on this, this can all be avoided if you speak with your investment immigration attorney and obtain a re-entry permit before your leave the United States. This is what you do to let Customs know that you cannot be in the United States for an extended period of time, and then you’ll be given permission in the form of a re-entry permit. When you reenter with that permit, you will have no problem.
I hope this is helpful to you today. Please feel free to contact us or call 415-221-2345 if you have questions.