Despite everything a person may have gone through to finally become a permanent resident, an individual may come to the conclusion that the United States is just not where he or she wishes to stay. In some instances, the person may not like living here, for whatever reason, and in others, the pull of his or her native country is just too strong. Regardless of an individual's reasons, the question then becomes how does one relinquish one's green card but leave the door open to one day return to the United States? This is actually a very complex question with significant consequences, depending on which actions the green card holder makes.
Think Carefully Before Abandoning Status
Some people realize only too late that the abandonment of one's permanent resident status, depending on how it is done, may become final. In other words, once an individual has taken a decisive action to affirmatively give up one's green card, he or she loses permanent resident status. If the individual wishes to return to the United States as a permanent resident, someone will normally have to petition for that person again. Depending on the status of the petitioner or nature of the petition, it can potentially be many years before a former permanent resident can once again become a new permanent resident. For example, if a US Citizen refiles for a spouse who is living abroad, the consular process will typically take up to one year (assuming there are no complications). If the only basis to re-immigrate is a sibling petition, the wait can extend to a decade or more.
Depending on the reason why one wishes to leave the United States, there may be alternatives. For example, if an individual doesn't truly want to lose status but knows that he or she must stay outside the US for a prolonged period of time for a legitimate reason (such as employment, an ailing relative, etc.), one should not assume that abandonment of permanent residence is inevitable. The re-entry permit may be something to look into. The criteria for securing an approval of such a permit can be found in the instructions to Form I-131.
I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status
Assuming, however, that one truly has deliberated over the issue and does not wish to remain in the United States as a permanent resident, one will normally have to execute an I-407, which is the official USCIS form to abandon one's green card. It is a mere two pages, but the import of the form, as already discussed, cannot be over-emphasized. Typically, if a person no longer wishes to remain a permanent resident, he or she will normally have already left the US, so the I-407 is customarily executed at the US consulate in whichever foreign country the person is now in. The person will usually be an interviewed by a consular officer who will review the form with the individual to ensure that the action is taken voluntarily and with knowledge of the consequences.
Once a person has officially abandoned his green card, he or she may no longer return to the US without permission, which is ordinarily in the form of a non-immigrant visa such as B-1/B-2 visa or perhaps something different, depending on the circumstances why one wishes to re-enter the US. Moreover, the relinquishment of permanent residence is not necessarily a guarantee that one will receive a visitor's visa, as the grant of any visa is subject to the discretion of the consulate. One should also bear in mind that if one does re-immigrate to the US as a permanent resident in the future, one will have to wait the requisite five years (or three, in certain circumstances) before considering applying for naturalization, assuming that the other requirements are satisfied, such as physical presence, continuous presence, good moral character, among others.
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