What to do After You win a Green Card

Many prospective applicants from all over the world are preparing themselves to apply for the Green card.

Getting a green card is a key step towards becoming a U.S. citizen. Getting the green card shows that an individual is a Lawful Permanent Resident and it enables one to live and work in the United States. After an individual has received a green card, there are a number of conditions that must be kept in order for one to maintain the lawful permanent residence status. Like one must not violate any criminal or immigration laws. Some of the laws may be as simple as change of address where one is required to inform the immigration authorities within ten days.

Repercussions of Violating the Law
The most common way that people lose their right to a green card is by committing a crime. Unlike what is commonly believed, it doesn’t have to be a major crime or a felony. An example, one must not violate any criminal or immigration laws. Some of the laws may be as simple as change of address where one is required to inform the immigration authorities within ten days. In the past, the department of Homeland Security through the USCIS almost never did anything about this issue. However, with increased local and global security concerns, the USCIS uses this rule against people it wishes to remove from the United States. One can use USCIS’s online service to notify it of your change of address.

Another example of felons that cause revoking of the permanent residency status is helping someone enter the United States illegally, committing domestic violence, possessing even a small amount of drugs, or any crime that’s considered morally wrong (such as fraud, theft, a crime with the intent of doing great bodily harm, or a sex offense).

Please note some of these crimes are misdemeanors that may not be punishable with time in jail.
However, there is no set list that tells you which crimes that can get you deported. If you are arrested for anything at all, one needs to engage not only a criminal lawyer, but also an immigration lawyer to find out whether the crime could result in deportation and how one can be able to avoid it.

Note that although criminal lawyers are obliged to advise on the consequences of pleading guilty to some of these criminal issues, few criminal lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of immigration law. Thus they can encourage one to plead guilty to avoid time behind bars which could result in one getting deported. This is the reason one needs an immigration lawyer to help one navigate through the process.

One can also be removed for certain violations that don’t fall under the criminal justice system. For example, if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uncovers that you got your green card through marital fraud, or any other kind of fraud, you can be removed from the United States.

What If you live Outside the U.S.?
Many people wrongly perceive that in order to keep your green card all you need to do is enter the U.S. at least once every year. The fact is that if you have the intention of making another country your permanent residence and you leave the U.S., you might be giving up your U.S. residency when you go. If you attempt coming back to the U.S., the border officials will look at your behavior for signals that your real place of residence has not been the United States.

As a general rule, if you have a green card and leave the United States for more than one year, it may be a bit difficult re-entering the country. That is because the U.S. government feels that an absence of longer than one year indicates a possible abandonment of U.S. residence. Even if you do return before one year, you may run into trouble. To avoid a full-scale inspection, return within six months.

On the other hand, remaining outside the U.S. for more than one year does not mean you automatically lose your green card. If your absence was intended from the start to be only temporary–for example, you left to take care of a sick close relative for a few months, but you had to care for your relation for over a year until he died–you may be able to argue to keep your permanent resident status.

The Commuter Exception
Green card holders who commute to work in the U.S. from Canada or Mexico on a daily or seasonal basis may keep their cards even while actually living outside the country. USCIS will grant you commuter status if you advise them of your intention to live on the other side of the U.S. border.

Returning Resident Visas
If you stay outside the United States for more than one year and do not get a reentry permit before leaving, you must apply at a U.S. consulate abroad for a special immigrant visa as a returning resident. You must convince the consular officer that your absence was temporary and you never planned to abandon your U.S. residence.
You will have to show evidence that you were kept away longer than one year due to unforeseen circumstances. Such evidence might be a letter from a doctor showing that you or a family member had a medical problem.

Reentry Permits
If you hold a green card and know in advance that you must be outside the United States for more than one year, it’s worth applying to USCIS for a reentry permit. This lets you to stay away for up to two years.

You should send in your application before leaving, and wait until you’ve been called in for your biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment. Use Form I-131, available on the USCIS website. Your reentry permit will serve as an entry document when you are ready to return.

Reentry permits cannot be renewed and can be applied for only inside the United States. If you want to stay away for more than two years, you must return briefly and apply for another reentry permit.

How to Avoid all these Problems; Apply for Citizenship
You can lower the chances of losing your residence in the United States by applying for citizenship, as soon as you are eligible. The waiting time for eligibility is usually five years after you get a green card, but there are exceptions: For example, the wait essentially drops to four years if you received asylum (because your first year as an asylee counts), and to three years if, at the time you got your green card, you were married to a U.S. citizen and you’re still married and living together.

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