What Should “Green Card” Holders Expect at Port of Entry

Customs Border Protection (CBP) has increased routine questions for Lawful Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) on their return to the US.  The most common questions are about the length of time spent outside from the US and nature of activities abroad. According to immigration law, an absence of more than six months triggers questions. An absence of more than one year will result in requests for additional documentation and evidence to show that the individual intends to retain and continue Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the US.

Questions to establish continuity of residence in the US are raised at the port of entry if the individual departs the US and stays for long periods of time, usually exceeding one year. Maintaining LPR status depends upon the individual’s circumstances of departure and ties to the US.  There are several factors that Port of Entry CBP officers evaluate, for example:

  1. Nature of activities abroad – for instance, full-time employment or visiting family
  2. Whether the individual maintains business interests with US – such as having financial concerns or owning a home or other property
  3. If the person has complied with obligations of LPR status – like paying federal and state taxes as a resident
  4. Individual shows the reason for departing the US and a fixed date of return

Upon return to the US, whether the person will be admitted in the US is determined by CBP officers at the port of entry. CBP officers may question the individual about intent to return and relinquished domicile in the US.  When returning to the US, every person must present proper documentation about their immigration status in the US. An individual who holds LPR status must also present the following documents:

  1. Evidence of the most recent federal tax income – this is very crucial evidence to show proof of intent to retain the US residence status
  2. If the individual departed the US for employment, a letter from the employer must be presented stating that the employee was temporarily transferred abroad
  3. Individual must be prepared to present US credit cards, vehicle registration, proof of family in the US, or other evidence of ties with the US
  4. Individual must present a valid US driver license and proof of membership in professional and social organizations

All individuals who hold LPR status and depart the US for more than six months but less than one year should be prepared to present evidence at the port of entry that establishes ties with the US and intent to retain LPR status. The above steps should help the individual to be admitted to the US with LPR status intact.