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Maintaining Your Green Card

and Eligibility for Naturalization

While Working Overseas

NOTE: This article is intended to be a brief summary of law only, parts of which may or MAY NOT be applicable to your situation. While an effort is made to keep this info. up-to-date and accurate, this article was not written with your situation in mind and thus DOES NOT constitute legal advice. Only an immigration attorney, one familiar with U.S. immigration law, should counsel you in this area.

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4. Reside in the U.S. for at least three (3) months prior to applying for U.S. citizenship;

5. Pay U.S. taxes every year;

6. Maintain a U.S. abode (e.g., own a U.S. home) for your entire period abroad.

B. Highly Suggested Practices (i.e., to avoid difficult, intrusive questioning by
border officials and avoid needing an attorney for appeals, etc.):

1. Stay in the U.S. for at least 183 days during each calendar year;

2. Have a U.S. bank account where you hold a substantial amount of your money.

C. Misconceptions and Non-Requirements

1.                 Starting your own U.S. company probably will not, in and of itself, give you more leverage to remain abroad. Despite what many immigrants believe, starting your company in the U.S. will not help you maintain your permanent residency status, since you already need to pay U.S. taxes (in excess of any non-U.S. taxes paid) on any income that you receive (from an overseas or U.S. firm) anyway. Exception: all or a substantial portion of the work you do abroad is for your self-created company, and the revenue/profits you generate from that business are typically transferred back to your U.S. bank account, and you can make the sincere argument to border officials that you are working abroad only temporarily to get the company started properly, etc.

2.                 Staying in the U.S. at least 6 months at a time is not absolutely required (i.e., the criterion seems to be 183 days in a calendar year, not 6 months at a time). However, if you stay outside the U.S. for more than 6 months at a time, you will be questioned more intensely by border officials, and you will have to affirmatively prove your permanent residence status to maintain your continuous period of permanent residence for purposes of becoming naturalized (i.e., so that you dont have to start the period of continuous residence over again!). This is where the home ownership, bank account, and taxes referenced in II.A-B. above are important.

III. Joe Green - Hes a Green Card Holder, Hes a Future American:

As an example of how the above rules of thumb might be implemented for a particular individual, meet our fictional U.S. immigrant: Joe Green. Joe, born in the fictional nation of Microvia, received his U.S. green card and achieved permanent U.S. residency status in April of 2002. Because, with the help of his immigration attorney, he gained his green card via the sponsorship of his employer, he needs to maintain 5 years of continuous residency before applying for citizenship.



Maintaining Your Green Card While Overseas


Maintaining Continuous U.S. Residence
While Overseas

Green Card Requirements

Green Card Suggestions

Green Card Misconceptions


A Sample Plan for Maintaining U.S. Permanent Residency While Overseas


Role of the
Immigration Attorney

See Also:

Green Card for Overseas Family Member


Forms Required

Permanent Residency - Spouse

Permanent Residency - Parent


Other Documents
Required for Green Card

Residency Status

U.S. Citizenship Status

Family Status

Marriage Status

Financial Qualifications


Costs of Applying for a Green Card


Where to File Green
Card Documents

Business Law Home

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Roger Galer, 2004

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