A finding of “abandonment of residence” is, or should be, a lawful permanent resident’s worst nightmare. This happens when a green card holder arrives in the United States at a port of entry — think, airport or border crossing point — and asks to be let back into the country. The Customs and Border Protection officer looks at the person’s file and makes the vague determination that the person has “abandoned residence,”and is thus inadmissible to the United States. Customs will issue the person a Notice to Appear in immigration court for deportation proceedings. Even worse, Customs can decide to detain the person in an immigration detention facility while removal proceedings are ongoing.
Given the disastrous consequences of abandoning residence, every green card holder should know how to keep it from happening.
I want to live abroad for a while. How can I avoid abandoning my residence in the US?
The first thing to realize is that 6-month rule you heard about will not prevent a finding of abandonment. Many green card holders believe that as long as they return the US once every 6 months, they can live anywhere in the world and keep their green card. This is false.
The rule against abandoning residence is separate from the rule against absences longer than 6 months. It is quite possible to be deemed to have abandoned your residence even if you have complied with the 6-month rule.
Indeed, CPB has stated that “CBP officers are less focused on the length of time abroad and more on where does the person actually live.”
The key to maintaining your residence is being able to prove that you still intend to make the United States your home. You have to show that you have strong ties to the United States, and you don’t wish to live anywhere else.
What are indicators of abandonment?
The CBP Inspector’s Field Manual explains that length of time abroad is just one factor that goes into abandonment. Other factors include:
- employment abroad
- lack of a fixed address in the United States
- frequent prolonged absences from the United States
- many immediate family members who are not lawful permanent residents
What documents can I use to show I have not abandoned residence?
Bring proof of a fixed address, like utility bills, or apartment leases. You should also bring proof of employment in the United States, like pay stubs or W-2s. Bring documents demonstrating your purpose abroad. Were you there for a wedding? Show the invitation. Prove that your purpose abroad was only temporary.
By no means is this an exclusive list of documents to prove you have maintained your residence here. Anything goes, as long as it shows that the United States is still your home, and that your stay abroad is for a limited purpose.
We sincerely hope that you or a loved one never ends up in deportation proceedings based on a finding of abandonment of residence. To that end, call The Vinesh Patel Law Firm to discuss your case. If by any chance a relative is held at an airport for secondary inspection, or even worse, an immigration detention facility, call us immediately at 855-278-2943. Our Firm will do our best to see that your loved one is released quickly and can keep his or her green card.