Look before you leap: expat assignments for US green card holders

By Akshat Divatia, Harris Bricken

For professionals working for multinationals, foreign expat assignments can be highly alluring. The prospect of living abroad in corporate housing, getting to know foreign counterparts, and exploring a different country are among the many reasons why such assignments are highly coveted.

For US lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who hold green cards (offcially known as permanent resident cards), however, such assignments can create major problems if they decide to prolong their stay abroad and agree to transfer to the foreign company’s payroll.

Generally, LPRs can travel abroad and re-enter the US without a visa. Nonetheless, their prolonged and unauthorised absence from the US can result in the loss of their green cards or their ability to become naturalised US citizens, unless they take steps beforehand to prevent such catastrophes.

The most important of these steps is for the LPR to apply for a re-entry permit prior to departing the US. Approved permits serve as advance permission for LPRs to re-enter the US after an absence of more than one year. To secure such a permit, the LPR must provide evidence of their intent to reside permanently in the US. Examples of such evidence include the filing of income tax returns, the maintenance of property and business affliations, the possession of a valid driver’s licence with a US address, and the residence in the US of a spouse and children.

Second, LPRs who wish to eventually apply for naturalisation can count their time abroad working for their multinational US employers as if it were time spent in the US. To obtain this special benefit, interested LPRs must file to preserve their status before leaving for their foreign assignments. In their requests, LPRs must also prove their prior physical presence in the US for at least one full year without interruptions.

The unforgiving immigration consequences of extended absence from the US underscore the importance of sound counsel and proactive planning well before LPRs leave the US for expat assignments.


Akshat Divatia

Akshat Divatia

GGI member firm
Harris Bricken
Law Firm Services
Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), USA
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Harris Bricken is an international law firm with lawyers all over the globe. The firm focuses on representing cutting edge businesses that operate internationally.

Akshat Divatia provides simplified immigration solutions to budding entrepreneurs, established companies, and growing families. He represents clients in a variety of non-im- migration and immigration visa matters. He has lived on four continents and speaks five languages: English, Gujarati, Hindi, Spanish, and Catalan.

Published: Global Mobility Solutions Newsletter, No. 01, Spring 2022 l Photo: Felix Mizioznikov - stock.adobe.com

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