Maintaining lawful permanent resident status and avoiding abandonment of it by long absences abroad can be tricky. There is a common misunderstanding that simply returning to the United States once every six months will preclude a finding that one has abandoned his or her lawful permanent residency. Whether an LPR has abandoned permanent residency, however, is not based solely upon the length of time spent outside of the U.S., but, rather, on a totality of circumstances and a number of various factors.
The CBP Inspector’s Field Manual (IFM) explains that the length of time spent abroad is not the sole indicator of abandonment. The IFM notes that other indicators of possible abandonment are “employment abroad, immediate family members who are not permanent residents, arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are nonresidents with return passage, lack of a fixed address in the U.S., or frequent prolonged absences from the U.S.” In questionable cases, the IFM advises officers “to ask for other documentation to substantiate residence, such as a driver’s license and employer identification cards.”
CBP representatives in Baltimore, for example, have said that its officers are focused less on the length of time abroad and more on where the person actually lives. They also look at how many years the person has lived in the U.S., whether the person is employed in the U.S. or abroad, where family members live, and whether U.S. taxes have been paid. For CBP representatives at Washington (Dulles), domicile is the major issue.
Foreign nationals who expect to be absent from the United States for prolonged periods of time are advised to discuss their circumstances with an immigration lawyer who can thoroughly review all the facts of the situation and provide guidance on how best to avoid abandonment. Filing an application for a Re-entry Permit may be one of several solutions to amassing indicia of one’s permanent intent to remain a U.S. resident.