Can a Permanent Resident Be Denied Entry?

Updated on August 12, 2023
At a Glance: If you hold a valid permanent resident status, you should generally not be denied entry into the United States. However, certain circumstances, such as losing your permanent resident status or staying outside the US for an extended period, may lead to denial. US citizens are usually allowed entry without issue, while green card holders may face additional scrutiny. Visitors entering on visas must ensure they meet the visa requirements. Violations of visa terms, criminal activity, or insufficient funds can result in denial. If denied entry, it is important to remain calm, seek legal advice, and gather information about the reason for denial.

The time has finally come – you have become a permanent resident of the United States. However, even if you have set permanent residence in the United States and started a life there, you may occasionally want to visit the family you have in your home country. So, there’s no denying the fact that upon coming back to the United States, you might experience some problems at the airport. But can a permanent resident be denied entry?

More than ever, it is now crucial that you know exactly what your rights and obligations are as a U.S. citizen coming from abroad. If you’re denied entrance, you might want to check exactly why that happened – and how you can fix it. If you believe that you have wrongfully been denied entrance in the States, then you might want to contact your immigration attorney.

Can You Be Denied Entry into the U.S. as a Permanent Resident?

Technically speaking, as long as the person landing at the airport has a valid permanent resident status, they should not be denied entry in the United States. They may have to pay certain fees for a form, yes – but under normal circumstances, they should not be denied entry. Still, there are special circumstances that may indeed lead to the permanent resident being denied entry.

That mostly happens when the CBP sees that the person coming back is no longer qualified, losing their permanent resident status. Generally, this happens after staying out of the United States for far too long. So, you may be denied entry for a fault that is not even yours – in which case, you might want to contact an immigration attorney that knows exactly what your rights are. They will also tell you precisely what you can do if this situation arises.

Bear in mind that if you are being denied entry, it does not necessarily mean you will be immediately embarked on a plane and sent to your home country. The CBP officers may hold you for a couple of hours, during which you may state your case for further questioning or contact your attorney.

Entering the U.S.

Upon entering the United States, you might want to expect the agents there to request for your travel papers and your passport – to prove that you indeed have the permission necessary to enter the United States.

Aside from looking at the reasons why you should be allowed into the country, they’ll also be looking for the reasons why you shouldn’t be. That’s why you might want to be sure that you have the paperwork ready, and that you answer everything respectfully and truthfully.

There are three ways in which you can legally enter the United States. The first and obvious one is as a citizen of the United States, no matter if you were born there or went through naturalization. You may also enter on a green card or as a visitor. You might expect different outcomes for every circumstance – but most of the time, the result will depend on your paperwork.

As a U.S. Citizen

If you are a United States citizen that is returning to the country from a trip abroad (born or through naturalization), the chances are that you won’t have any issues and you’ll be immediately allowed to enter. Granted, you will still have to present your passport at the entrance, along with your identifying paperwork that proves your citizenship. However, as a citizen, your entry in the U.S. is pretty much guaranteed.

As a Green Card Holder (Permanent Resident)

If you are living in the United States as a permanent resident, then you have the right to travel outside the country and return. This does not mean that you will automatically be accepted into the country – not without a few extra steps.

Indeed, if the leave was short, then you’ll probably not have any issues other than the standard checkup upon arriving at the airport. Still, when you land, you need to present your green card along with your foreign passport. If you’ve been outside the United States for more than one year, then there is a chance that you will also have to opt for a re-entry permit.

As a Visitor

In order to enter the United States on a visa, then you will need to get your hands on a visitor visa – also popularly called a non-immigrant visa. These visas are generally given for two reasons: business or pleasure.

In the first scenario, you are traveling into the United States for business purposes, in which case you will need a B1 Visitor Visa. You may also be traveling as a tourist and you will require a B2 Visitor Visa. Similar to these two categories are student exchange visas, which tend to be quite common. While rare, denials are possible here are well.

Once disembarked from the plane, you will have to go through an officer that will ask for your travel documents and your visa. If they determine that you are not honest or that you have violated your visa terms, they are entitled to revoke or cancel your visa, and to deny your entry into the United States.

Reasons Why a Permanent Resident Might Be Denied Entry

There are quite a few reasons why a permanent resident might be denied entry in the United States. In most of those cases, it happens because the terms of the visa have been violated in some manner. Here are some of those violations:

  • Committing certain crimes
  • Not coming back to the United States within the specified time
  • Being deemed inadmissible for holding a green card. These grounds can be applied each time you leave the States and try to come back (e.g. inadmissible by health)
  • Violating your visa terms (i.e. working when you weren’t supposed to)
  • Absence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay

Every non-citizen that is planning on entering the United States may face the risk of being denied entry – but as mentioned, that only happens when there are irregularities to your paperwork.

You may have the most honest intentions – but if the officers there believe you are lying or that you are a security risk, then they will prohibit you from going further and entering the United States. If the officials see that there are any reasons to deny your entry, they will certainly do so.

What to Do If You’ve Been Denied Entry

You’ll probably be at the terminal when you receive the news that you can’t enter. The first thing that you should do is prove patience because arguing at this point will get you nowhere. If there is any way that you can convince them to momentarily put off your denied entry, at least until you call your lawyer, this will help you in the long run.

In an authoritative yet calm and respectful manner, ask if they can answer some of your questions, taking note of their responses. Find a quiet place where you can put together all your details, finding the reason for your denial. Once you have established that, call your lawyer, as he will be the most appropriate persona to take you out of this mess.

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Final Thoughts

Being denied at the airport can indeed happen if you weren’t thorough enough with the paperwork or have violated the terms of your visa. To prevent any unpleasant circumstances, make sure that your paperwork is in order, and that you always have your attorney’s number on speed dial if needed.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.