In our previous series of articles we discussed several matters pertaining to unintentional abandonment of legal permanent resident (LPR) status, including how to avoid it and the consequences that could result from it. In closing the series, it is important for readers to know that there is a common misunderstanding that simply returning to the United States once each six months maintains a person's LPR status. This is not the case.
Abandonment of LPR status is not based solely on the length of time spent outside the United States. At a meeting of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) representatives in Baltimore in October 2011, it was indicated that “CBP officers are less focused on the length of time abroad and more on where does the person actually live.” It was further indicated at this meeting that CBP officers will look at the totality of circumstances including “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.”
In determining whether abandonment of LPR has occurred, other factors beyond just time spent abroad will be considered by CBP officers. Such factors may include employment abroad, immediate family members who are not permanent residents, arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are non-residents with return passage, lack of a fixed address in the United States or frequent prolonged absences from the country. In questionable cases CBP officers will likely as for documentation from a person seeking reentry into the country which substantiates domicile in the United States.
In summary, we strongly recommend that individuals with LPR status avoid prolonged absences from the United States. But it is just as important that, in the event an extended absence from the U.S. becomes necessary, you maintain ties in the country, such as having family members, owning property, having bank accounts, having employment filings, having filed income tax returns, or having business affiliations in the United States.