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Maintaining Permanent Residence

Once you become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you maintain permanent resident status until you:

  • Apply for and complete the naturalization process; or
  • Lose or abandon your status. 

There are several ways that you can lose your status as a lawful permanent resident.

Conditional Permanent Resident Status

Section 216 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for you to become a lawful permanent resident on a conditional basis, based on marriage.

Section 216A provides for you to become a lawful permanent resident on a conditional basis, based on a qualifying investment.

Both sections allow USCIS to terminate your conditional status as provided by the law (in the event of fraud, for example).

You may be able to seek review of the termination of your status in a removal proceeding before an immigration judge.

Removal Proceedings

You will lose your permanent resident status if an immigration judge issues a final removal order against you. 

INA sections 212 and 237 describe the grounds on which you may be ordered removed from the United States. 

Abandoning Permanent Resident Status

You may also lose your permanent resident status by intentionally abandoning it. You may be found to have abandoned your status if you:

  • Move to another country, intending to live there permanently.
  • Remain outside of the United States for an extended period of time, unless you intended this to be a temporary absence, as shown by:
    • The reason for your trip;
    • How long you intended to be absent from the United States;
    • Any other circumstances of your absence; and
    • Any events that may have prolonged your absence.
    • Note: Obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave, or a returning resident visa (SB-1) from a U.S. consulate while abroad, may assist you in showing that you intended only a temporary absence.
  • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period.
  • Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your U.S. tax returns.

Reporting Loss of Permanent Resident Status

Internal Revenue Code section 6039G(d)(3) requires the Department of Homeland Security to inform the Internal Revenue Service if you lose permanent resident status because you:

  • Have been ordered removed from the United States; or
  • Chose to abandon your status and surrender your green card.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/08/2014