We received a phone call yesterday from the son of a long-time lawful permanent resident. This gentleman has had his green card since the early 1990s. He has lived and worked continously in the United States since that time. The gentleman could have applied for citizenship decades ago, but unfortunately never did so. In February of 2011, the gentleman decided to begin splitting his time between the United States and his home country of Canada. But then he stayed in Canada for most of the year. He did not obtain a re-entry permit prior to leaving.
The last time that the gentleman tried to come across the border, he was stopped and questioned about the possible abandonment of his lawful permanent resident status. This individual incorrectly believed that the fact that he was still paying taxes and owned property in the United States would demonstrate his intent to remain a lawful permanent resident.
Unfortunately for him, USCIS does treatlawful permanent residents who stay outside the United States as possibly having abandoned their LPR status. If this gentleman had consulted with the immigration attorneys at the Hacking Immigration Law, we would have advised him to apply for citizenship before starting to split time between the two countries. The law requires that before naturalization, the applicant has to have spent more than half of the year for each of the past five years in the United States. Now that the caller's father spent almost an entire year outside the United States, he cannot apply for citizenship without re-establishing 5 years of continuous residency in the United States.
This is going to be a serious problem for this person as he has two children in the United States, as well as many friends, and he would like to be able to visit with them. This is going to be very difficult and we suspect that at some point, ICE may move to revoke his green card.
This case is an example of why it is SO important to apply for an immigration benefit at the earliest time possible. It is also an example of why people need to at least consult with an immigration attorney BEFORE making large life decisions that may have immigration consequences. If you need help obtaining citizenship or with dealing with an extended stay abroad, the Missouri and Illinois immigration attorneys at Hacking Immigration Law, LLC, can help. Please call us at (314) 961-8200 or complete our online contact form here.