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Tips for Frequent Travelers Who Have a US Green Card

Transcript of the above video:

In this video today as the title suggests, we are going to be discussing travel issues with respect to Green Card holders, also known as Lawful Permanent Residents in the United States.

What are we talking about here? Well you will see it rather frequently. I see it in Thailand in the context of, you will often see, a couple will meet while an American will be in Thailand for, maybe not necessarily a short term business assignment, but a contract that might last three to five years and they meet their Thai spouse, they get married, and they go ahead and apply for immigration benefits back in the United States. In that event, the Thai spouse will go ahead and presumably come back in on either a fiance or marriage visa. They're going to get a Green Card, they are going to be able to live in the United States pretty much without interruption thereafter. Where you get into issues with respect to this though is, and I have often seen it in the context of expats here in Thailand, they have been working here, they met here they go back to the United States and then say 10 years later you know the American citizen who came here in the first place decides to retire and he is basically, he or she, wants to come back to Thailand to live on a more full-time basis. Well the requirement is that the lawful permanent resident needs to maintain their residence in the United States and being outside of the United States for too long a period of time can result in a presumption of abandonment of residence. Now what is too long a period of time? Well, it is very hard to gauge that. There is no bright-line rule where 49 days is perfect and 50 days is too much, or something like this. There is no number, okay? Generally speaking, US Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration Judges and Immigration Authorities will often look at the sort of the totality of a given immigrant’s travel circumstances you know. If they frequently leave the country for a month or two months at a time and then return, I don't think you're going to be looking at a big issue but if they're spending out of a given three years they are spending 2 ½  abroad that can be problematic, in fact that can be really problematic. That can lead to a presumption of abandonment of residence. It may even lead to a situation where one has to seek what's called an SB-1 Returning Resident Visa; we have another video on this channel which specifically discusses the SB-1 Returning Resident Visa.

But one major tip and something that I think is of much interest and would be very beneficial to those who think they're going to spend a substantial time outside the United States, at least at one given stretch, is application for a re-entry permit. A Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States can go ahead and apply for a re-entry permit and a re-entry permit is granted with a 2-year validity and so long as that individual returns under the expiration date of the re-entry permit itself, so within two years of leaving the United States, that individual is still going to remain in status and the presumption of abandonment is not going to be raised.

Another thing to think about is a slightly different way of looking at it, but naturalization to US Citizenship. If a Thai National for example or any foreign national who has lawful permanent residence  but may be wanting to go abroad but returning to the United States periodically or regularly, but they just don't know exactly when they would be doing that, if they qualify for naturalization, naturalization is a good way to deal with that. Naturalizing to US Citizen results in getting rid of one's Green Card and now that individual has a US passport. If that individual wants to spend the rest of their life abroad, nothing particularly wrong with that or if they want to spend 364 days a year abroad and come back for one day, great no problem. In the past there was this sort of “conventional wisdom” that as long as you set foot on US soil once every year that was enough to maintain your residence. Again there is no bright-line rule with respect to this stuff but that is not a good rule of thumb to sort of operate under. Generally speaking, US Customs and Border Protection, and they will take people to secondary inspection and request information about their travel history, they can cause a lot of hassle for lack of a better term for those who have been traveling abroad and spending a significant amount of time, while in lawful permanent resident status, but they are spending a significant amount of time abroad. Again naturalization would cure this, a reentry permit would remedy this, at least temporarily, but these are considerations that have to be taken under advisement for those who are going to be traveling significantly outside the United States.

Finally, and we have done a specific video on this channel, there is also the possibility of doing what is called an  I-407 surrender, and then by surrendering one’s Green Card one can turn around and apply for a tourist visa. Again one's circumstances is going to be, one needs to analyze one's circumstances with respect to doing that and I really recommend checking out the other video on this channel specific to that but the thing to take away from this video that I would like taken away from this video specifically on I-407 surrenders is, one really needs to analyze the immigration status and everything before surrendering a Green Card. It is a major decision, you're giving up substantial rights and benefits and doing so should not be undertaken lightly. But that being said, it is an option and there are those who simply don't wish to reside in the US any longer and they do an I-407 surrender, and they use a tourist visa to periodically travel back to the United States when and if it suits them.