Permanent Residents and Public Charge Issues

In a December 1997 Memo, the INS advises its officers that they cannot threaten to confiscate the “green card” of permanent residents who are absent from the U.S. 180 days or less. Such returning residents should not be subject to the rules of inadmissibility and should not be questioned on public charge related issues. The INS has also advised that INS or consular officers cannot require that applicants for admission as permanent residents repay public debts. However, the issue of whether an intending
immigrant could become a public charge is a relevant question by consular officers or the INS.

As a general rule, a lawful permanent resident who has been outside the country for more than 180 days, but less than one year, is not required to have a reentry permit. The alien could be allowed to present his or her I-551 as evidence of lawful permanent resident status.

The Memo outlines the circumstances in which a lawful permanent resident who has been absent from the United States for 180 days or less would be considered an applicant for admission — and therefore subject to the public charge grounds of inadmissibility — are as follows:

the alien has abandoned or relinquished his or her status;

the alien has engaged in illegal activity since departing the United States;

the alien departed the United States under legal process seeking his or her removal from the United States;

the alien has committed certain criminal offenses; or the alien is attempting to enter at a time or place other than as designated or has not been admitted to the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.

It is always important for permanent residents to realize that they have certain rights and obligations. Some of the restrictions on permanent residents are outlined above in the INS Memo. Often we find that permanent residents and U.S. citizens believe that they can enter the U.S. wily nily without adverse consequences. Although at present there are no residency requirements for U.S. citizens, the INS has taken the position that those U.S.citizens who have relinquished their citizenship to avoid U.S. income
taxation will be prevented from obtaining a visa to enter the U.S.

*Edited and Contributed BY SHEELA MURTHY

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