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A lawful permanent resident of the United States who lives outside the US for an extended period of time may be found to have abandoned their status, even if they visit the US occasionally at least once a year. This determination can be made by an immigration judge based on evidence relating to the nature and length of their absence and their ties to the US.

So, suppose an LPR decides to attend university in a country other than the US and complete a four-year degree. This person is young and doesn't own any property in the US, is not married (and may in fact get married to someone in the country where they study), may or may not have parents and siblings in the US they visit once or twice a year, but does continuously maintain an intent to return to the US to live and work after graduation. Is it possible for such a person to avoid losing their LPR status?

(This is a hypothetical situation, so feel free to make up any relevant details.)

  • Would the student be able to find a school with a long summer break, and spend each summer in the US? – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 19:03
  • @PatriciaShanahan You could assume that for the purposes of the question. Do you have any evidence of whether that would be sufficient? – Brian Jul 24 at 19:05
  • No specific evidence. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 19:06
  • You're really asking "What is enough evidence to find no abandonment?" Recitations of evidence that was found sufficient (or insufficient) would be found in the hearing records of the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the federal trial and appellate courts. The latter two are "courts of record," and their decisions are searchable in legal databases. I don't know if records of the first two are publicly available. In any event, any decision in this field will also be driven by the personality and attitude of the judge, which is tough to suss from a written record. – David supports Monica Jul 25 at 2:39
  • Some info here: help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/820/~/… – mkennedy Jul 28 at 14:30
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Matter of Kane, 15 I&N Dec. 258 (BIA 1975) appears to have some relevance to this situation. Quoting from this decision,

Subjective intent can sometimes be determined from examination of such elements as:

(1) Purpose for departing. The traveler should normally have a definite reason for proceeding abroad temporarily. See U.S. ex rel Alther v. McCandless, 46 F.2d 288 (C.A. 3, 1931); examples are education and professional training, Serpico v. Trudell, supra; employment for a definite, "albeit extended period," by accepting a two-year teaching position with a foreign university, Matter of Guiot, supra; ...

(2) Termination date. The visit abroad should be expected to terminate "within a period relatively short, fixed by some early event," U.S. ex rel. Lesto v. Day, 21 F.2d 307, 309 (C.A. 2, 1927); Matter of Castro, 14 I. & N. Dec. 492 (BIA 1973). If unforeseen circumstances cause an unavoidable delay in returning, the trip would retain its temporary character, so long as the alien continued to intend to return as soon as his original purpose was completed. For example, war might inhibit travel or the alien might be drafted, Serpico v. Trudell, supra; there might be illness, Transatlantica Italiana v. Elting, 66 F.2d 542, 545 (C.A. 2, 1933); there might be a death requiring remaining abroad to settle an estate, U.S. ex Polymeris v. Trudell, supra.

(3) Place of employment or actual home. The traveler must intend to return to the United States as a place of employment or business, Saxbe v. Bustos, supra; Gooch v. Clark, 433 F. 274 (C.A. 9, 1970), cert. den. 402 U.S. 995 (1971); Matter of Bailey, 11 I. & N. Dec. 466 (BIA 1965 and 1966); or as an actual home, U.S. ex rel. Lesto v. Day, supra; Matter of D—C—, 3 I. & N. Dec. 519 (BIA 1949). He must possess the requisite intention to return at the time of departure, U.S. ex rel, Lesto v. Day, supra; and must maintain it during the course of the visit, Gamero v. INS, supra; Matter of B—, 9 I. & N. Dec. 211, 213 ff (BIA 1961), reversed on other grounds, Barrese v. Ryan, 203 F.Supp. 880 (D. Conn. 1962).

In Matter of Quijencio, 15 I. & N. Dec. 95 (BIA 1974) we noted the significance of the location of the alien's ties, such as family, job or property, as an aid in determining the alien's intent. See also Santos v. INS, 421 F.2d 1303 (C.A. 9, 1970); Matter of Castro, 14 I. & N. Dec. 492, (BIA 1973), reversed on other grounds, Castro-Guerrero v. INS, 503 F.2d 964 (C.A. 5, 1974); Matter of Montero, supra; Matter of Salviejo, 13 I. & N. Dec: 557 (BI4 1970).

Based on these factors, it seems that a student at a four-year university abroad may be able to retain their LPR status on the basis of their trip abroad being for the purpose of education, having a termination date fixed by an early event (i.e., the student's admission to a school from which students typically graduate in approximately 4 years), and testimony that they intended to return to the United States upon completion of their education and retained that intention during the course of the visit abroad.

Under current immigration law, the student would need to return to the US at least once during each 12 month period in order for their green card to remain valid, or at least once during each 24 month period if they applied for and received a Reentry Permit prior to each departure.

If the student spent each summer in the United States with their family, this could be used as evidence that the student had, on each visit to the foreign country, intended to return to their home in the United States.

I have no legal training and no legal experience or professional experience of any kind relating to such a hypothetical situation and I am still hoping that someone with relevant experience could provide an answer. I am sure there are people who have been in this situation before and other people who are wondering about what would happen to them in a similar situation.

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    I've had no personal experience with this issue. If I were a Green Card holder and considering an overseas 4-year curriculum, the safest course of action status-wise would be returning to the US each spring at the end of the school year, and returning to the overseas school each fall when school was to resume. This would demonstrate the intent to remain in the US by going overseas only when necessary for the school, and never being outside the US for longer than a year. Matter of Kane is a good find, but pretty ancient as controlling precedent. – David supports Monica Jul 29 at 14:45
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    The LPR should also comply with all legal requirements for a resident alien - notify USCIS of one's address, file resident tax returns, if male register for selective service on turning 18. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 30 at 4:32
  • Maintaining a physical US address would also be demonstrative. – David supports Monica Jul 30 at 14:43

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