What is Abandonment of Residency?
The term ‘abandonment of residency’ can mean various things; however, generally speaking, there are two ways to ‘abandon’ one’s residency-voluntarily and involuntarily.
Voluntarily: If you wish to relinquish your lawful permanent residency, you can file form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status with USCIS, or at a port of entry.
An individual may want to give up their lawful permanent residency if they no longer wish to reside in the United States and plan to visit the States on the Visa Waiver Program or apply for a non-immigrant visa in the future.
Involuntarily: There are two situations in which abandonment of residency may come up for a lawful permanent resident (LPR) (1) upon re-entering the United States, and (2) applying for naturalization.
- Typically, you will be in danger of involuntarily abandoning your residency if you spend too much time outside of the United States, at one time, while in LPR status. If you have spent a prolonged period abroad, upon your return, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official may accuse you of abandoning your residency.
- Second, when you apply for naturalization, you must detail your trips abroad over the past three or five years. If you’ve had a prolonged absence during that time, a USCIS official may accuse you of abandoning your residency.
It is important to know that only an immigration judge can make a finding of abandonment and take away your residency. If a CBP or USCIS officer believes that you have abandoned your residency, s/he may refer your case for removal proceedings, and you could fight your case in front of an immigration judge. If a Customs and Border Patrol officer tries to get you to sign form I-407, you do not have to sign it; you have the right to see an immigration judge.
It is up to the government to prove that you abandoned your residency; if the government successfully demonstrates abandonment, that will lead to deportation.
What If I Need to Leave the United States for an Extended Period?
If you know in advance that you’ll have to leave the United States for an extended period, you can apply for a re-entry permit before you go. A re-entry permit is valid for up to two years and is a good indication of your intent to return to the States.
You file form I-131, Application for Travel Document with USCIS. You must be present in the United States when you file for the re-entry permit, and you’ll have to be available for a biometrics (fingerprint) appointment. USCIS recommends submitting form I-131 no less than 60 days before your intended departure.
Even if you are abroad for extended periods of time, there are ways to help preserve your residency.
What to Do If I Believe I Have Abandoned My Residency?
If you have been abroad for an extended period and didn’t apply for a re-entry permit, you can apply for a ‘returning resident visa’ by convincing a consular official that you did not abandon your residency.
If you are in the United States and have long absences in your past, you should consult an immigration attorney before you travel abroad or apply for naturalization.
**A Note on Naturalization**
Naturalization applicants are required to show either three or five years of continuous presence to qualify for naturalization. An absence of over six months can break the continuous presence necessary for naturalization. This is related to but different than the abandonment of residency issue.
If you are a lawful permanent resident and wish to apply for a re-entry permit or believe that you are in danger of abandoning your residency, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in cases involving re-entry permits, extended absences from the United States, and complex naturalization cases. Please call us at (510) 491-0291 to see how we can help!