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How to Keep Your Green Card

U.S. Immigration law requires that a green card holder never abandon the intention of continuing to reside permanently in the United States. Simply returning to the U.S. once a year for several weeks is NOT enough.

  • If you will be leaving the U.S. for more than one year, but less than two years, it is advisable to obtain a reentry permit prior to leaving the U.S.

  • File resident tax returns. Note that this does not necessarily mean that you must actually pay U.S. income taxes, it only means that you must file a resident tax return and declare your worldwide income on that return, even if most of this income is exempt from taxation.

  • Maintain a U.S. Address, even if the address is the home of a friend or relative.

  • You should leave open and continue to use U.S. Bank accounts and credit cards.

  • You should continue to renew your U.S. Driver’s license. Be sure that the address on your license is the same as that recorded on any immigration documents.

  • If possible, continue ownership of U.S. property, e.g., houses, condominiums, businesses, automobiles, etc.

  • Before leaving the U.S. on long assignments abroad, obtain a written employment contract, or letter, from your employer.

  • For persons of applicable age, be sure to register with selective service.

  • Renew your green card when it expires.

Things to Avoid

  • (DO NOT return to the U.S. using any form of non-immigrant visa. For example, if you stay outside the U.S. for longer than one year, without having obtained a reentry permit, do NOT return to the U.S. on a tourist visa; instead, apply to the U.S. consulate for a Special Immigrant Visa.
  • DO NOT arrive at a port of entry functioning as a gateway to a resort area.
  • DO NOT enter the U.S. on a round-trip ticket which terminates outside the U.S.
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