Each year, thousands of foreign nationals earn the right to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. This lawful status is bestowed on the beneficiaries through a green card. Holding a valid green card also sets you on the path to naturalization in which you can eventually become a U.S. citizen.
However, a green card does come with its share of limitations. A violation of your green card’s terms and conditions can lead to its revocation. One of the grounds upon which your green card can be revoked is when the USCIS believes you have abandoned your green card.
But what exactly is green card abandonment?
Understanding green card abandonment
The determination of whether you have abandoned your permanent residency status and, thus, your green card basically boils down to your conduct. Take note that permanent residency does not necessarily mean “permanent.” To continue living in the country, you must make the U.S. your home.
Here are two scenarios when you can be accused of abandoning your green card:
When you overstay abroad – the green card grants you the right to travel in and out of the U.S. multiple times. However, you may not stay out of the country for as long as you wish. If you stay abroad for more than 12 months, the USCIS may have questions regarding your commitment to the U.S. To be safe, you are better off not staying out of the country for more than six months. Frequent travel in and out of the country can also raise eyebrows with the USCIS.
When you voluntarily surrender your green card – it is not uncommon to voluntarily vacate your permanent residency status and return to your country of origin. If you take this route, you may surrender your green card and leave the country.
A green card grants you the privilege to call the Land of the Free your permanent home. However, this is not an unequivocal guarantee. Understanding your responsibilities and entitlements as a green card holder can help you protect your rights if you are accused of abandonment.