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Consulado General de Mexico en Raleigh

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Family Preparedness Tips from Chapman Law Firm

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Where can I find information about adjusting to life as a permanent resident?

USCIS has published a general information handbook entitled Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants. This guide contains practical information to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the United States, as well as basic civics information that introduces new immigrants to the U.S. system of government. If you are interested in downloading a free version of Welcome to the United States, it is available online in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Portuguese, French, and Haitian Creole at: www.welcometousa.gov

Obtaining Your Green Card

What are the benefits of getting a green card?
The green card permits you to remain in the country indefinitely (if you obey all applicable immigration laws) and you are authorized to work based on your permanent residence. In some situations, you may work anywhere.  In others (e.g. cases based on employment offers), you should remain in your current job for a reasonable period of time after your case is approved.  Please be sure to check with our office before you consider any change in employment.

How long is my green card valid?
Generally, your permanent resident (alien registration) card is valid for a period of ten (10) years and must be renewed prior to expiration if you do not seek citizenship.  However, in cases based on marriage to a US citizen spouse, a conditional green card, which is valid for only two (2) years, may be issued to the newly approved permanent resident. When USCIS approves the case in this way, where the parties are married less than two (2) years before the date of the interview, the case is approved on a conditional basis.

What if I lose my green card?
If your green card is lost or stolen, you must obtain a replacement.  Federal law requires that you keep you card with you at all times.

I received a conditional green card based on marriage.  What do I do now?
Your permanent residence is conditional because USCIS reserves the right to re-examine the original basis for your green card, i.e., the marriage. In this kind of case, in the 90 day period before the conditional green card expires, you will be required to file another set of papers.  You should collect evidence of your marriage so you are prepared to file this second application at the necessary time.

Sometimes it is necessary to attend another interview in order for USCIS to remove the conditions on your permanent residence. Much like your original interview, USCIS will send you a list of documents to bring to your interview if necessary. Once the conditions are lifted from your permanent residence, USCIS will issue you a new, ten-year green card.

What if my address changes?  What about Selective Service?
All non-U.S. citizens, including both those with temporary visas and also permanent residents, must notify USCIS within ten (10) days of moving to a new residence.  The notice should be in writing and include the street address of the new residence.  Failure to follow this rule may subject a person to deportation or criminal prosecution.

When will my child need a new green card?
A permanent resident who reaches 14 years of age must apply for a new green card within 30 days of his/her 14th birthday. He/She must submit photographs and a full fingerprint chart, such as that which is required for persons 14 years of age and older when they apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident.

What about Selective Service?
In addition, male children between 18 and 26 years of age are required to register with the Selective Service System for the U.S. Armed Forces (this used to be called “the draft”).

What happens if I get arrested?
Even the most basic criminal offense may affect your permanent resident status, even if the immigration authorities are not notified by the police immediately. If you are charged with a crime, let us know immediately so that we can confer with defense counsel representing you on the charges and provide advice on the possible immigration consequences.

Also, please be aware that USCIS conducts new background checks on individuals who apply to replace a lost or stolen green card, or one that has expired. If the background check uncovers criminal activity, the green card may not be issued and in fact, removal (deportation) proceedings may be triggered. This is one of many ways a criminal offense can affect permanent resident status negatively, so it is very important that you seek the advice of immigration and criminal defense counsel if you are charged with any crime after you become a permanent resident.

Can I travel out of the country and maintain residence in the U.S.?
Permanent residents may use the green card to re-enter the United States after a temporary trip abroad of less than one year.  However, you should not assume that you can preserve your status as a permanent resident by simply returning to the U.S. for a few days every year.  USCIS will not accept that sort of travel pattern and may challenge your status if you are out of the U.S. for as little as six (6) months, depending on various factors related to your employment and all other ties to the U.S.  The safest and most conservative approach is the best one, i.e., limit the number and length of your trips outside the U.S. as much as possible.

Will I be inspected when I return from traveling outside the country?
Permanent residents who have been outside the U.S. and do not return within 180 days are subject to formal inspection at the time they re-enter the U.S., and can be questioned before being allowed entry.  On the other hand, permanent residents who have been absent from the U.S. for 180 days or less before returning are not considered to be applying for a formal “admission” and therefore are not to be inspected unless special circumstances exist.

To be as safe as possible, when you travel outside of the U.S., you should return well before the 180 days has passed.

What if I need to be outside of the U.S. for over a year?
If you plan to be out of the United States for one year (1) or more, you will need to apply for a Re-entry Permit, which is a valid re-entry document.  You must file your application for this document while you are physically in the U.S.  A re-entry permit does not guarantee re-admission to the U.S., but it does confirm that the trip has been accepted by the U.S. government as temporary.  It also confirms that at the time you left, USCIS believed that you intended to maintain your permanent resident status.

Am I required to pay taxes while I’m outside the country?
Yes.  If you fail to pay United States income taxes as a resident during a period of absence, you may be considered to have abandoned residence, even if you have a re-entry permit, and future re-entry permit applications may be denied.  USCIS also may look to see if you have taken up residence abroad, accepted permanent employment abroad, maintained ties to the U.S. such as ownership of property, bank accounts, credit cards, driver’s license, and location of close family members, to determine if you have abandoned your permanent resident status.

There also are requirements to report your foreign assets on your U.S. tax returns. Please speak with an accountant regarding these requirements.

What do I do if my green card expires?
You can renew your card no more than six (6) months before it expires.  However, in some cases people do not realize that their card has expired until after the expiration date. The expiration of your card does not mean that your status as a Permanent Resident has expired. You are fully authorized for employment and for all of the other privileges of lawful permanent residency even if your card has expired.  We do, however, recommend that you file for the renewal of your card as early as possible.  We will be happy to answer any questions you or your employer may have about this.
You will not be able to renew your driver’s license using an expired green card.  However, you can arrange an appointment with your local USCIS office so you can have your passport stamped to confirm that you are a permanent resident.  You then can renew your driver’s license using the stamp from USCIS, rather than waiting until your new green card arrives.

 

What if I decide I no longer want to have permanent residence in the U.S.?

(The following comments apply only to individuals who have been permanent residents and have NOT become US citizens.  Once a person is a US citizen, this issue is not relevant to them.)

It is rare that a person decides to abandon his or her status as a permanent resident, but it does happen occasionally.  If and when that decision is reached, the person can file a form with certain supporting materials.  To do this properly, please contact our office for assistance.

In addition, although this firm does not give tax advice, we do understand that there are important tax implications that may be triggered if and when a person takes that step.  We understand that under current law, if the person takes this step after having been a permanent resident for 8 or more years, it may trigger very significant tax implications.  Before you take the step of abandoning your permanent resident status, we recommend in the strongest possible terms that you contact a competent Certified Public Accountant or Tax Attorney for advice on the consequences of this step, and the time at which those consequences become effective.  You also should contact our office so that we can discuss the impact of such a step on future immigration filings.