Can I Be Deported If I Have a Green Card?

Understanding How Lawful Permanent Residents Can Face Deportation

A green card confers many benefits, including the ability to live and work anywhere within the United States. However, lawful permanent residency is distinct from citizenship, which enjoys many additional exclusive benefits.

Can a Permanent Resident be Deported?

The short answer is yes, they can. Some will mistakenly assume that lawful permanent residents are immune from removal proceedings and deportation efforts. Unfortunately, it is very possible for a green card holder to be deported if they are found to have committed certain offenses.

Being aware of deportable conduct can help avoid situations where a lawful permanent resident unintentionally puts their status in jeopardy. Below, we cover the most common ways a green card holder can be targeted for deportation.

Committing Criminal Offenses

Lawful permanent residents are expected to be law abiding and not pose a threat to U.S. national security or public safety. Committing a serious crime tends to violate this requirement and potentially trigger the revocation of your green card.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) maintains a list of “deportable offenses” that can trigger removal proceedings. In order to become deportable, you must in most circumstances be convicted of a crime, and the case must be final. If you are seeking an appeal of an unfavorable verdict, the case will not be “final.” The term “conviction” can apply to situations where you were found guilty by a jury or pleading guilty or no contest. In some situations, a conviction can apply if you have admitted to enough facts that cement your apparent guilt.

Criminal offenses where a conviction can result in a lawful permanent resident’s deportation include:

  • A crime of moral turpitude punishable by at least 1 year of imprisonment when committed within the first 5 years of entry into the United States
  • Two or more crimes of moral turpitude punishable by at least 1 year of imprisonment committed at any point after receiving your green card where the crimes did not stem from the same instance of misconduct
  • Any single aggravated felony
  • Any failure to register as a sex offender
  • Any drug crime or conspiracy to commit a drug crime; the only exception to this rule is a single possession of 30 grams of marijuana intended for personal use
  • Any offense involving espionage, sedition, treason, or sabotage, including conspiracies to commit such acts, that is punishable a minimum of 5 years of imprisonment
  • Any offense involving stalking, child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, violation of a protective order, or child abandonment
  • Any offense involving the illegal sale, possession, distribution, or use of firearms, weapons, or explosive devices

In addition, drug abusers and addicts can potentially be deported without a conviction. If you have been accused of a crime and are likely to be convicted, an experienced immigration attorney may be able to help you negotiate a plea deal that protects your lawful permanent residency, depending on the nature of the offense and at the discretion of the judge.

Becoming a Public Charge

Enhanced “public charge” requirements have been enforced over the past several years. These rules mandate that a potential immigrant to the United States do not rely on need-based government assistance, such as food stamps or housing support, upon being admitted to the country. Applicants must provide an exhaustive level of documentation and financial records to support their claim that they will not become a public charge once they are granted status.

Unfortunately, lawful permanent residents that do become public charges within 5 years of being given a green card can be targeted for deportation. Whether this occurs depends on the reason for a lawful permanent resident’s new dependence on government assistance. If the cause stems from something that existed at the time they applied for a green card – say, a known disability or the age of the applicant – the green card holder can be targeted under public charge rules. If the dependence developed out of new events that arose after they received their green card – perhaps an injury rendered them unable to do their job – the lawful permanent resident is generally considered safe.

Unlawfully Voting in a United States Election

The sacred act of participating in the United States democracy is reserved exclusively for U.S. citizens. While lawful permanent residents are permitted to live and work in the country, they are not allowed to vote in its elections or run for public office. They can become able to vote should they successfully complete the naturalization process and become citizens themselves.

Voting in a U.S. election at any level as a lawful permanent resident constitutes a crime and is consequently grounds for deportation. Those with green cards should never attempt to vote in any local, state, or federal election.

Failure to Inform USCIS of an Address Change

As a lawful permanent resident, you are able to live and work anywhere in the country. However, you must keep USCIS informed about where you choose to live. An accurate physical residential address must be maintained with the agency at all times.

You are allowed to move from residence to residence or even state to state as a lawful permanent resident, but you must promptly inform USCIS of the change. Lawful permanent residents can do this by sending the completed Form AR-11 (the Alien’s Change of Address Card) via mail. A change of address form is also available online, and if you have previously filed immigration paperwork digitally, you can easily alter your address using your USCIS account.

Be sure you receive a confirmation from USCIS that your address change has been recognized. Changing addresses without confirming USCIS’s awareness can result in removal proceedings.

Any Fraudulent Action

When applying for any immigration benefit, you are required to be completely truthful to USCIS. This includes verifying that every piece of evidence, answer, and element of your application materials is accurate and truthful to the extent of your knowledge.

It is imperative that you answer everything truthfully, even if there are weaknesses in your case. Should USCIS at any point discover evidence of fraud or misrepresentation involving your file, even after you have been issued a green card, you can potentially be deported. This includes instances of marriage fraud, where a marriage is only used to facilitate the issuing of a green card.

Violation of Physical and Continuous Presence Rules

Green cards are meant for immigrants who intend to primarily and permanently live in the United States. As such, they are expected to meet certain conditions of physical and continuous presence.

Physical presence is defined as the amount of time that the lawful permanent resident is physically inside the country. Every day an individual spends within the U.S.’s borders constitutes physical presence.

Continuous presence consists of whether the lawful permanent resident maintains their primary residence in the United States. They must have a residential address that is considered their home. One can “disrupt” continuous presence by traveling abroad for a period greater than 6 months.

In order to eventually pursue citizenship, a lawful permanent resident must maintain certain levels of both continuous and physical presence during their mandatory waiting period. A green card holder must always maintain continuous presence throughout this period.

They must also have physical presence in the country for at least half of their mandatory waiting period. For many green card holders, that will consist of 2.5 years, or 30 months, of their 5-year period. For those married to a U.S. citizen, they will need to be physically present for 1.5 years, or 18 months, of their 3-year period.

Spending too much time out of the country as a lawful permanent resident will likely result in additional scrutiny from border and immigration officials. There are certain allowances and exceptions for circumstances beyond your control, like personal emergencies or natural disasters, that keep you abroad for longer than what is typically permitted. Otherwise, you might face challenges to your green card when you eventually return to the United States.

How to Avoid Deportation

To help avoid the revocation of your green card, you should always:

  • Obey local, state, and federal laws
  • Support the United States government and do not attempt to unlawfully change the government
  • File annual income tax returns with both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and relevant state tax agencies
  • Register for the Selective Service if you are male and between the ages of 18 and 25

We Can Help You Understand Your Rights and Protect Your Green Card

At Kanu & Associates, P.C., our team has over 15 years of experience helping immigrants solve problems, including obtaining green cards through a variety of methods. We understand how challenging it is to procure a green card and that receiving one is a major milestone and victory. The thought of losing your hard-earned green card is a frightening thought, but we can help you understand your legal rights as a lawful permanent resident and, if necessary, defend you from any adverse action. Our immigration attorneys are prepared to provide you legal assistance with all of your immigration concerns. Whether you need to know if you can travel abroad or if you will imperil your status by seeking a government benefit, our team is ready to give you the guidance that you need.

If you have more questions about what actions can jeopardize your green card or need assistance in protecting your status, do not hesitate to call (602) 353-7795 or contact us online.

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