Risks of Staying a “Permanent Resident”

“Permanent” does not always mean “forever.” Remaining a “permanent resident” in the United States carries with it hidden risks. Many immigrants do not realize that permanent residents may, under certain circumstances, be stripped of their right to remain in the United States and be removed to their home countries or refused entry to the United States upon return from abroad. Due to changes in immigration laws that occurred in 1996, many permanent residents convicted of crimes that are classified as “aggravated felonies” since coming to the United States became subject to removal (the new term for deportation) even if they have served their sentences. The CIS definition of “aggravated felony” includes many non-violent crimes, e.g., shoplifting and check kiting. The law also was made retroactive, so long-term permanent residents who have criminal histories, even from decades ago, can be deported. In addition, the far-reaching 1996 laws severely limited the ability of immigration judges to prevent deportation of permanent residents facing removal under such circumstances, even if their spouse, parents or children are U.S. citizens.

In addition, if you move to another country with the intent to live their permanently, fail to file tax returns while living outside the country, declare yourself as a “non-resident” on your tax returns or remain outside the country for more than a year  (with exceptions).  For example, if a person stays outside of the U.S. continuously and returns every few months but has no roots in the U.S., such as a job, bank accounts, a home, yearly tax returns, etc., the Immigration Service may find abandonment. On the other hand, if a person has strong ties to the U.S. but only returns once a year because he or she is abroad taking care of an ill or elderly family member, a finding of abandonment would not be appropriate if all other aspects of the person’s life establish that he or she has no intent of abandoning his or her residence (e.g., maintains a home, pays taxes, owns a business, etc.).

In determining whether a person has abandoned his residence, the courts have generally looked at the following factors: a. Purpose of departure; b. Existence of fixed termination date for visit abroad; and c. Objective intention to return to U.S. as place of permanent employment or actual home.

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