The last few weeks have illuminated not only the volatile nature of immigration but also the perils of traveling as a green card holder. While lawful permanent residents enjoy a tremendous array of benefits and privileges that non-immigrants do not have-such as the legal ability to reside in the US indefinitely-permanent residence is still not equivalent to citizenship. Moreover, when a green card holder leaves the confines of the United States, he or she enjoys even less protection than what he/she had while staying inside the US. Most permanent residents understand that they are subject to inspection by Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), just as US Citizens are, upon return from an international trip abroad. What they may not realize, though, is that in many cases, they are also-legally speaking-seeking "admission" into the US. Depending on an individual's circumstances and immigration history, a CBP officer may deem a green card holder "inadmissible" to the US, despite the fact that the person may hold a green card. If an officer arrives at this conclusion, legal proceedings may be instituted so that a person's legal residence is formally revoked or cancelled by an Immigration Judge. (Of course, the individual has a right to contest the matter in court.) Under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), there are certain circumstances under which a lawful permanent resident will be deemed to making an application for admission into the US. They can be found at section INA 101(a)(13)(C) which references when an alien:
•· Has abandoned or relinquished status,
•· Has been absent from the United States for a continuous period of 180 days,
•· Has departed from the United States while under legal process seeking removal of the alien from the United States, including removal proceedings under this chapter and extradition proceedings,
•· Has committed an offense identified in section 1182(a)(2) of this title, unless since such offense the alien has been granted relief under section 1182(h) or 1229b(a) of this title, or
•· Is attempting to enter at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers or has not been admitted to the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer
The recent controversy with the Trump "Muslim ban," which also affects lawful permanent residents who are nationals of the seven designated countries, has underscored how risky travel can be. But while green card holders who are not from one of those countries are not yet subject to the 90 day executive order restrictions, they are subject to the general aforementioned provision. Everyday, without fail, permanent residents around the country returning from trips abroad have run afoul of INA 101(a)(13)(c) and found themselves not only detained but placed into removal proceedings on account of conduct referenced in the section. Especially if a green card holder who needs to travel has been charged or convicted of a criminal offense or anticipates having to travel outside for more than six months, a visit to speak with an immigration attorney is imperative.
The foregoing is not general information only. It is not legal advice nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please consult with an attorney.