How To Maintain Primary Residence Status (Green Card) in the US

There are several independent rules with some exceptions that come into play to maintain U.S. Primary Residence Status (a Green Card).

Allan Scott Lolly

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In case of any doubt, contact us before proceeding.

The Core Rules

  1. A green card holder must not remain outside the U.S. for more than one year without first obtaining a reentry permit before departure from the U.S. Even with a reentry permit, the permanent resident must not spend more than 2 years outside the U.S. Exceptions:
    • U.S. Government personnel (military and direct-hire civil service employees), their spouses and minor children who hold legal resident status in the United States may remain outside of the United States for the duration of an official overseas assignment plus four months without losing their immigrant status.
    • An emergency sometimes prevents the permanent resident from returning to the US within one year. In emergency situation, the foreigner must apply for revalidation of the green card at the nearest U.S. consulate abroad as soon as the emergency ends. Any delay beyond the emergency will defeat the application.
  2. If you violate this basic rule, you should immediately contact our offices to examine options.
  3. A green card holder must generally spend less than 6 months outside the U.S. on any given trip abroad. A stay of more than 6 months can trigger interrogation at a U.S. port of entry by a Customs and Border Patrol officer.

Useful Tips

While outside the U.S., the green card holder must maintain residence in the U.S., generally the same residence.

If the foreigner gives up life in the U.S., then the green card can be confiscated. U.S. residence includes a place to live, and any other trappings such as bank accounts, maintaining contacts with family or friends, etc.

  • It helps if the green card holder will return to the same job in the U.S. after working abroad.
  • It also helps if the work overseas is for a fixed duration and not open-ended. Such things as changing addresses to a family member and other attempts at technical compliance will put the green card at risk.
  • If you’ve followed the rules above and are stopped at a U.S. border check, ask to be allowed into the U.S. to see a judge who will review the evidence and decide.

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