Maintaining Permanent Residence Status during COVID-19

permanent resident card

U.S. immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently once they’ve become a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

The current Presidential Proclamations restricting travel to the United States from the United Kingdom do not apply to LPR’s who have valid status. Therefore, if you are worried about maintaining your LPR status, you may wish to make arrangements to return to your home in the United States before your resident status is abandoned. If you lose your resident status, you may be required to once again apply, pay and qualify for a new immigrant visa so the consequences of inadvertently abandoning your resident status can be costly and delay your return to the United States.

Some common situations where resident status might be lost include:

  • An LPR who remains outside the United States for more than 12 months.
  • An LPR who remains overseas beyond the validity of their Reentry Permit may also result in a loss of lawful permanent resident status. Note, LPRs who have obtained a Reentry Permit from USCIS prior to departing the United States may remain overseas for up to 2 years.
  • LPRs who fail to file income tax returns while living outside the U.S. or who declare themselves as “nonimmigrants” on tax returns may also lose their status. Information about travel and maintaining permanent resident status is provided through the USCIS website.

Furthermore, the abandonment of residency may be found to have occurred on trips of less than a year outside of the United States if is determined you did not intend to make the U.S. your permanent residence. Further information regarding this can be found on the USCIS website.

Will USCIS consider the current COVID-19 situation as an exceptional circumstance and allow affected LPRs presently outside of the U.S. to retain their LPR status?

No announcement or exception has been issued by USCIS regarding this issue. LPRs who have stayed outside of the United States for 12 months or longer than the validity of their Reentry Permits, are generally considered to have abandoned their LPR status.

What about senior citizen LPRs or LPRs with health conditions who do not wish to return due to the current COVID-19 situation in the U.S., but who wish to retain their LPR status?

The U.S. Embassy in London cannot provide guidance on what actions an LPR should take. Any questions regarding the status of an LPR should be directed to USCIS for official guidance. Information and contact details can be found on their website at www.uscis.gov.