US Immigration News

Overseas Green Card Holders During the Pandemic

3.25 minute read
"The global pandemic has been going on for more than a year. To stop the spread of the virus, the government is still maintaining the travel restrictions implemented last year in mid-March. This is exceptionally difficult for many US permanent residents, Green Card holders and conditional permanent residents who have been stuck overseas. This prolonged period of staying abroad also affects their ability to maintain their permanent residence and apply for US citizenship later on."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jul 3, 2021
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The global pandemic has been going on for more than a year. To stop the spread of the virus, the government is still maintaining the travel restrictions implemented last year in mid-March. This is exceptionally difficult for many US permanent residents, Green Card holders and conditional permanent residents who have been stuck overseas. This prolonged period of staying abroad also affects their ability to maintain their permanent residence and apply for US citizenship later on. 

It is advised to have a proper plan to return to the US after a prolonged trip overseas. Permanent residents should not expect any sympathy or leniency from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  

How Can a Permanent Resident Re-enter the US After a Long Trip Abroad?

It recommended to have the following documents ready to present to a CBP official when reentering the US after a long trip abroad:

  • Proof of filing income tax returns
  • Proof of employment in the US
  • Proof of bank account in the US
  • Proof of a house on lease in the US
  • Proof of family members living in the US
  • Proof that the departure was temporary with a returning ticket
  • Proof that the returning ticket was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions
  • Proof that you were unable to get a return ticket due to Covid-19 restrictions
  • Proof that you were unable to return because you tested positive for Covid-19
  • Proof that you hadn’t abandoned your residency

In the end, it's up to the CBP official to decide whether or not you will be allowed to enter the US or your green card will be confiscated and your case referred to the immigration court. If it has been more than 1 year since you were absent from the US and you have abandoned your residency, then you must contact your nearest US embassy or consulate to seek permission.

What Is Required to Maintain Your Permanent Residence in the US?

There are 2 different requirements to maintain your permanent residence in the US: Documentation and continuous residence in the US. If you have spent less than a year abroad and are returning to the US, then a valid Green Card is enough to reenter the country. The six-month absence only invites additional questions from the CBP office.

Spending a lot of time abroad even if you are coming back for short periods every 6 months will also lead the government to question your absence and determine that you have abandoned your permanent residence. There has been no specific rule introduced to change this requirement during the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, there will be no “Covid Clause” that might help permanent residents who are approaching the 1-year mark to return to the US without any problem

However, as mentioned above, the requirements to maintain residence are simple, therefore, the CBP official will only question your ties to the US based on your family and employment status in the country. To demonstrate this, you can present the documents also mentioned above.

It is advised that all permanent residents travel back to the US when it is safe to do so. Since returning on time is better than facing repercussions. 

There are a few options for those who are unable to return within 1 year.

What to Do If You Have to Return to the US after 1 Year?

If it has been more than 1 year since your absence from the US and you have a valid green card, then you can request a visa waiver. You might be required to pay a fee but you will be allowed to re-enter the country.

However, if the officer insists that you have abandoned your green card, then you will be taken to an inspection area to give a statement. This is where you can inform them about your connection to the US through employment, residence, housing, etc. Normally, you will be issued a ‘Notice to Appear’ and not be detained. During this time, you can gather enough evidence and solidify your ties to the US.

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