How to Lose Your Green Card

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • Lose Green Card by residing outside the US for over 12 months.
  • Voluntarily surrender your green card.
  • Engage in fraud or willful misrepresentation.
  • Crucial Advice: Follow the law and seek legal counsel to maintain your green card status.

Getting a green card is indicative of permanent legal resident status. It is granted to those who wish to stay in the United States for the long haul. However, the journey to getting a green card is challenging, and the process is lengthy. And once you have got your green card, there is a possibility of encountering situations where you could lose your LPR status. In this article, we will explore various ways you can lose a green card status.

5 Ways To Lose Your Green Card and Permanent Resident Status

Here are certain situations that can trigger deportation and loss of green card status.

1. Reside Outside of the US

Living outside the United States for more than 12 months leads to losing permanent resident status. Shorter absences from the country can also trigger the deportation process. Therefore, when re-entering the United States, it is essential to convince the Customs and Border Protection officer of your intent to stay in the US.

Failure to convince officials of your intentions can lead to deportation proceedings. Also, failing to submit income tax with the IRS while residing outside the United States can trigger the cancellation process.

How to Avoid

This is common, as many people unintentionally trigger their green card revocation when going back to their home country. However, this can be easily avoided. Permanent residents planning to leave the country for a significant amount of time should obtain a re-entry permit before departure. This permit is valid for 24 months or two years.

Certain exemptions exist for people like US government personnel and their families who have LPR status but live outside the United States on foreign postings and commissions. Exceptions are also made for permanent residents who have ‘commuted status,’ who hold green cards and work in the US but live across Canada or Mexico.

2. Voluntary Surrender of Your Green Card

The voluntary process to surrender the green card is initiated with Form I-407. The most common reason for filling the form I-407 is to avoid paying taxes in the United States. If you plan to fill this form, we suggest consulting an immigration attorney or income tax professional for professional and legal advice.

3. Fraud and/or Willful Misrepresentation

Fraud or wilful misinterpretation can occur when individuals use illegal means to obtain immigration benefits and US naturalization. Evidence of potential fraud can lead to termination of green card status and immediate deportation. The two most common types of fraud reported by immigration officials include:

Marriage Fraud

Marriage fraud has been a long-time strategy to obtain a green card. It can come in many forms

  • Paying or getting a favor from a US citizen to marry a foreign national
  • Foreign nationals swindling US citizens into marriage
  • Mail-order marriages
  • Visa lottery marriages

Non-immigrant Visa Fraud

Foreign nationals who apply for a non-immigrant visa are required to show a plan and intent for leaving.

4. Being Convicted of a Crime

If you are caught committing different crimes or using and selling illegal substances, you will likely be deported back to your country of origin and lose your green card status. In such cases, it is essential to consult with an attorney.

5. Failure to Remove Conditions on Residence

Residents who fail to remove conditions of residence are liable to be deported upon the expiration of their two-year green card. This holds for foreign nationals who have obtained their residence through marriage. Upon marriage to a US citizen, spouses receive a 2-year conditional green card. For permanent residency, the person must file a petition to remove the conditionality. This document must be filed within 90 days of receiving the conditional green card, or else the card expires. This conditional card cannot be renewed.

Losing Permanent Resident Status by Becoming a Citizen

Losing permanent resident status to become a naturalized US citizen is possibly the only positive outcome on this list. Once you become a naturalized US citizen, you’re protected from deportation, making your life in the United States of America stable and legal. However, it must be noted that once you receive your citizenship, you are legally obligated to live under the laws of the land. Permanent residents who have stayed in the US for a minimum period of five years are eligible to file Form N-400, application for naturalization.

Losing Your Green Card Due to Deportation

Any of the above reasons can lead to deportation and you could end up losing your green card status. The best way to avoid deportation is to stay in the good books of American law and seek legal counsel for all immigration-related matters.

6 Ways To Get Deported As A Green Card Holder

You could lose your green card due to deportation. Here are a few ways in which this can happen:

1. Vote as a Supposed US Citizen

US citizens are granted rights and benefits that are not extended to LPRs. This includes the right to vote and the ability to participate in the justice system as a jury. If a legal permanent resident misinterprets their status and casts their vote illegally, they risk losing their green card status.

Also, when registering for a driver’s license, green card holders need to check the registration forms correctly. Driver’s license forms do not distinguish between US citizenship and LPR, leading to confusion with voter registration. If your voter’s id recognizes you as an LPR, you are liable to be deported.

2. Failure to Complete a Timely Change of Address Form

Whenever you change your address, you must inform US citizenship and Immigration Services within ten days of the change. The best way to do this is by filling out the AR-11 form, change of address to the Department of Homeland security. Make sure to keep a copy of the filled-out form with yourself for additional documentation and evidence. The form can be found on the USCIS website, free of charge. The form can also be submitted online.

3. Abandonment of Permanent Residence

Once you have acquired your green card, you are bound to establish residence and live in the country. The USCIS conducts routine checks for all LPRs, asking for proof of permanent residence in the United States of America. Having this documentation is vital for your citizenship application or re-entry permits to the US after a long trip abroad.

Here are some ways you can prove permanent residency in the USA:

  • Filing taxes on time and keeping documentation
  • Buying property in the USA
  • Being a customer of financial and banking institutions in the US
  • Having a driver’s license in any of the 50 states
  • An active member of any organization, charity et cetera
  • Having legal documents like a will drafted in the US
  • Have provable close relationships with family members and friends who live in the USA
  • Not having permanent residency in any other country other than the US.

4. Failure to Establish a Permanent Residence

If you fail to establish a stable life and residence in the US, it serves as the ground for immigration officials to initiate deportation proceedings and to revoke green card status. Although the green card aims to allow people to settle down in America, failure to do so goes against the conditions set by the green card status, leading to termination.

5. Committing a Crime

Not all criminal activities lead to the termination of green card status. However, it is best to stay on the right side of the law. Certain crimes can trigger the green card cancellation process. These are the following cases where a person can be deported:

  • Committing crime within five years of getting US naturalization or 10 years of getting a green card.
  • Having more than two convictions while living in the US.
  • Having a conviction for an aggravated felony while living in the US.

6. Committing Fraud

Committing any fraud can lead to disqualification and termination of your green card status or application. This includes marriage fraud, VISA fraud, or any other scam related to immigration.

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This article is by no means exhaustive, and neither is it a replacement for professional legal advice. If you risk losing your green card, we strongly advise you to take legal counsel from a trained immigration lawyer.

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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.

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