What Are the Common Ways to Lose Your Green Card and Permanent Resident Status?

There are many ways to lose your Green Card and Permanent Resident Status. Professionals from Tadeo & Silva Immigration Attorneys explain more. Call us now!

Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva

Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Updated on: January 09, 2024.

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Can A Green Card Holder Lose Their Lawful Permanent Resident Status?

As its name implies, permanent resident status is usually permanent. It is awarded to individuals who wish to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

Your status as a legal permanent resident in the United States may not be as permanent as you may think. The U.S. can revoke your privilege to hold a green card. Permanent residency in the United States can be lost for several reasons.

The loss of permanent resident status is different from the loss of your green card, which means you have lost your green card status. You can read this guide on reporting lost green cards if you only lost your card.

Only a legal permanent resident who becomes a US citizen is immune to most of these grounds for removal. In the article, the most common methods of losing permanent resident status are discussed.


What are the top reasons for losing permanent resident status in the United States?

The United States of America offers many individuals the opportunity for permanent residence or a green card. However, certain actions or situations can lead a green card holder to lose their permanent resident status. Understanding these actions and conditions is crucial for anyone who holds or aspires to this status.

One of the most common and primary reasons for losing permanent residence or green card status involves spending an extended period outside the United States.

If a green card holder leaves the U.S. for more than the specified period of time, which is usually around a year, without obtaining a returning resident visa, it can put them at risk. They risk being considered as having abandoned their lawful permanent residence.

Prolonged absence may indicate that the green card holder is no longer interested or intends to reside in the United States permanently.

However, this case upholds certain exceptions, such as for civil service employees on an official overseas assignment or students attending school overseas.

The second most common reason for losing green card status is the commission of crimes involving moral turpitude or other serious offenses. Such criminal activities can lead to deportation proceedings, resulting in the loss of permanent resident status.

It is crucial for green card holders to understand that involvement in criminal activities not only jeopardizes their status but can also affect their chances of obtaining a new immigrant visa in the future.

Conditional permanent residents, typically those who have acquired their green card status through marriage, can put their permanent resident status at risk if they fail to meet specific conditions. For instance, failing to file the necessary paperwork to convert their conditional status into permanent status can result in the loss of their green card.

If the Department of Homeland Security suspects that a green card was obtained through fraudulent means, this can lead to the revocation of the permanent residence status. It is important for all green card applicants to provide accurate and truthful information, as any deception detected by immigration officials can be grounds for losing status.

Furthermore, failing to renew or replace an expired or lost green card can also lead to complications with maintaining a lawful permanent residence. While this might not directly lead to the loss of status, it can create issues, such as difficulty in proving legal status for employment or travel. It is under the applicant’s control to ensure their green card is valid and up to date.

It is crucial for green card holders to be mindful of the duration of their temporary absence from the U.S., abide by the law, fulfill the conditions of their residency, and keep their documentation up to date.

Using Form I-407 to Voluntarily Refuse a Green Card

Voluntary surrender is the easiest way to lose your permanent residence status. Interestingly, many people file Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, to abandon their permanent status in the United States.

People Abandon their U.S. Status, including:

  • Moving to another country: To become a legal permanent resident of another country, you must abandon your current status
  • Relocating permanently to your home country
  • Paying taxes in multiple countries: Legal permanent residents of the United States must pay taxes to the government. People often abandon their US permanent residency status if they pay taxes in another country.

After abandoning your Permanent Resident Card and status, you will still be able to apply for immigration to the United States in the future; however, you will have to start from scratch and reapply.

In addition, the decision to abandon the status of a lawful permanent resident is irrevocable. The individual must reapply for lawful permanent resident status after relinquishing it. Hence, one should carefully consider abandoning their status as a lawful permanent resident before doing so.

Residing Outside the United States

Deportation can be triggered if you live outside the country for more than 12 months. Several shorter absences can also lead to deportation.

Consequently, you must convince Customs and Border Protection officers that you intend to remain in the United States when re-entering the country.

A failure to persuade the authorities of your intentions may result in deportation proceedings. You might also trigger abandonment cancellation proceedings if you fail to file your income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

Many people unwittingly trigger the cancellation of their green cards when they travel abroad for a long period. However, this is simple to prevent. The re-entry permit is required for permanent residents who plan on leaving the country for a prolonged period of time. Re-entry permits are usually valid for two years.

There are certain exemptions for US government personnel and their families who hold lawful permanent resident status while residing abroad for official overseas assignments or commissions.

Exceptions also apply for permanent residents with “commuted status” who have green cards and work in the United States but reside in Canada or Mexico.

Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

Criminal offenses of moral turpitude, such as aggravated felonies or the sale of illicit drugs, are deportability grounds that can result in you losing your green card status.

You will need the assistance of an immigration lawyer to assist you with the removal procedure, as well as an experienced criminal lawyer to assist you with the criminal charges against you.


Failure to Remove Residency Conditions


Residents who fail to remove residency restrictions before their two-year green card expires are subject to deportation. This applies to non-citizens who have earned permanent residency via marriage.

Spouses who have been married to US citizens for less than two years obtain a conditional green card for two years. Once the temporary card expires, it cannot be renewed. Unless your immigration status is adjusted within 90 days before your conditional Green Card expires, you will lose your permanent resident status.

Fraud and Willful Misrepresentation

Someone commits fraud when they lie to obtain immigration benefits of any type. Under the immigration laws of the U.S., any untruthful assertions or representations of facts may result in serious immigration issues and the eventual loss of permanent resident status.

Fraud may occur during the documents’ preparation, the submission of evidence, and the interview and other information communication between the applicant and the immigration authority.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services assess the possibility of fraud when extending immigrant visas, adjusting status, obtaining work authorization, and granting parole.

Fraudulent marriages and fraudulent visas are two common ways green card holders lose their permanent residence status.


Marriage Fraud

Marriage has long been a target of fraud since marrying a US citizen is one of the fastest ways to get a green card. Consequently, dishonest people exploit it to deceptively obtain permanent residency. Marriage fraud may take several forms. USCIS has recognized the following kinds of marriage fraud:

  • Someone pays an American citizen to marry them

  • A foreign national defrauds an American citizen who thinks their marriage is valid

  • A US citizen marries an immigrant as a favor to help a foreign national obtain permanent resident status

  • Mail-order weddings (where either the US citizen or the immigrant knows that the marriage is fraudulent)


Non-Immigrant Visa Fraud

Most foreign nationals seeking a non-immigrant visa to the United States must establish that they intend to return home upon completing their chosen program or activity. This requirement, known as non-immigrant intent, requires the applicant to have a foreign domicile that they do not intend to relinquish.

The US Department of State evaluates situations where a non-immigrant tries to change or adjust status to immigrant status using a 90-day rule. Within 90 days of admission, there is a presumption of fraud if an individual breaches their non-immigrant status or participates in behavior inconsistent with that status.

For instance, visiting the United States on a B-2 visa to get married and completing Form I-485 to change status would violate the provisions of the visa.

Ways to Lose Permanent Resident Status

Criminal Convictions: Engaging in criminal activities can lead to losing your permanent resident status. Crimes involving moral turpitude, aggravated felonies, or drug offenses are particularly severe. Even minor offenses can accumulate and result in deportation.

Failure to File Taxes: Permanent residents must file U.S. tax returns and report worldwide income. Neglecting this responsibility can be considered an indication of abandoning residency. Consistent failure to file taxes can lead to severe legal consequences, including the loss of your green card.

Abandoning Residency: Spending extended periods outside the United States can signal abandonment of residency. If you stay outside the U.S. for more than six months without obtaining a re-entry permit, you may face scrutiny upon return. Continuous absence for over a year without a re-entry permit can lead to the presumption of abandoning your status.

Participating in Illegal Voting: Permanent residents are prohibited from voting in federal elections. Registering to vote or actually voting in such elections is a violation of U.S. law. Such actions can result in deportation and the revocation of your green card.

Failure to Update Address: Permanent residents are required to notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of any change of address within ten days. Failing to do so can result in penalties and jeopardize your resident status.

Involvement in Terrorist Activities: Engaging in, supporting, or associating with terrorist activities can lead to immediate deportation and the loss of permanent resident status. This includes providing financial assistance to terrorist organizations.

Maintaining your permanent resident status requires adherence to U.S. laws and fulfilling residency obligations. For more detailed guidance, refer to the USCIS official guidelines or consult with an immigration attorney.

Loss of Permanent Resident Status Upon Naturalization

The only possible good result on this list is losing permanent resident status to become a naturalized US citizen. After you become a naturalized citizen of the United States, you are shielded from deportation, making your existence in the United States of America stable and lawful.

Applicants for naturalization who have lived in the United States for at least five years can submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.


Still Have Questions About Losing Permanent Residence? Call Tadeo & Silva Immigration Attorneys


The information provided in this article is by no means exhaustive, nor does it substitute for the services of a competent immigration lawyer. Consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you are in danger of losing your green card.

Few criminal attorneys are well-versed in US immigration laws and are aware of the impact of special pleas on immigration status. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

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