How To Keep Your Green Card Status in Tact

For some it took a long time, lots of effort and/or money to finally obtain the “green card” or permanent residence. Now that you have a green card, what can happen to your status? Nothing? WRONG. Lots of things that can happen including abandonment of status and deportation if you are not careful about maintaining your status. Here are some information and strategies to handle the basic scenarios once you have become a permanent resident.

Abandonment of Status 

As a permanent resident you are required to make the United States your primary residence. Failure to do so may be deemed an “abandonment” and loss of permanent resident status. Whether someone has “abandoned” status is a very fact specific inquiry. While time spent outside the United States is a large factor, it is not the only factor. You must show evidence of ties to the US such as your employment, residence, where your family resides, whether you are paying US taxes and if you have any other financial or social ties in the US.

Tactics: If you need to travel outside the US a lot, make sure to keep ties to the US as listed above such as a residence or PO Box, assets, and tax payments. If you are going to be gone for more than one year, you should speak to a Colorado immigration attorney about taking additional measures to protect your status.

Deportability/Removability – C’est Possible?

Yes – it is true. You may still be deported as a legal permanent resident if you commit a deportable or “removable” offense. You would face charges in immigration court and if found deportable by a judge, would lose your permanent resident status and be deported. Deportable offenses predominantly involve criminal offenses and fraud offenses as well.

Tactic: If you have any criminal or misrepresentation issues in your background – even prior to obtaining permanent residence, you should always seek counsel from an immigration attorney and especially if you plan to travel internationally as this is when such issues would arise.

My Green Card Has Expired – What Do I do Now?

Your card has expired which makes things more difficult if trying to secure employment or traveling internationally, but your STATUS has not expired. So the good news is you are not deportable for being out of status; but the bad news is that in today’s world and particularly in the United States, it is not recommended that you travel or work with expired documents.

Tactics: If your card is expiring in the next six months, the time to renew is NOW. It can take up to five months to obtain a new green card. You may also obtain a stamp in your passport if you have filed for your renewal but the card has not yet been produced. This is evidence of your current status. Another option is to think about filing for citizenship which in some jurisdictions, like Denver Colorado, can take 5 months as well.


I Have a Conviction But I am Not Deportable – Problem?

Technically no. But practically, you may have issues with international travel. US Customs and Border Patrol will review your criminal history in the federal database systems. If you have a record there, it will be asked and you may be asked to step into secondary inspection, which can take hours.

Tactic: To avoid delays at the airport on criminal charges or convictions – even foreign ones – bring a certified copy of your court disposition (the judge’s determination) showing the charges were “dismissed” or “pled guilty” etc. Do not assume the criminal databases being reviewed have all the details of your case. Bringing this paperwork along can make things go quickly for the border officials. In some situations, traveling with a letter from your immigration attorney explaining how these charges/convictions do not trigger any admissible or deportable offense is also recommended.

Remember that legal permanent residence is a status that is still under the jurisdiction of US immigration laws and as such, you must comply with those laws. Always seek green card attorney advice if you are ever in doubt about your ability to maintain or your status or a valid green card document.


marcel widmann

I have been a green card holder for 20 years. Yesterday – when reentering from a short trip abroad – I got hassled by the agent for not having become a citizen. Is there a limit in the number of years one can be a green card holder?



Great question – this comes up often where border officials do this. No – there is no limit on the number of years one can be a green card holder. However, you are required to maintain ties to the US as an LPR or else it raises an abandonment issue and perhaps however long you have been absent from the US and where you are “living” if not in the US is causing the issue. Or it could just be a poorly informed border official. You can be an LPR indefintely.


i am a greencard holder. i have lived in us for 1 yr 10 months now. i plan to travel overseas to get married and then return in 5 months. i plan to then apply for re entry permit, appear for biometrics and live overseas and also for apply for my spouse for i-130 simultaneously. do you think my re entry permit will be approved if i can show proof of my drivers license, bank account, credit card, apt lease,
spouses i-130 application and that i plan to return to USA once i have wrapped up everything overseas within 2 years?


I cannot really comment on your case as it constitutes legal advice. If you want advice then I recommend speaking to Catherine Brown immigration attorney in person.

Dominique Galante


I am a Belgian citizen who has had a green card for 28 years.
I have now a renewable card, having unfortunately lost my first one about 4 years ago.
I am going to spend over a year in Belgium, returning to the States in between.

How can I keep my status and my card? I have 2 businesses in this country.

Thank you much for your response,



I’m a green card holder,i lived in the US for six years but now am in Italy since 2005 and am planning to get back next year. how’s my status? thanks for your response…Marco.


Hi Marco – I cannot give legal advice just based on your limited information because the abandonment issue looks at a host of factors to determine whether you have abandoned or not. Your best bet is to speak to an immigration attorney in detail to get his/her opinion before trying to re-enter the US on the green card, given the long absence.

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