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When I was little I lived in the US with my family. In October 2007 I received a permanent resident card, however in 2008 I moved to Finland with my family.

From what I understood my family should've visited the USA within one year in order to not lose the permanent resident card, however we have lived in Finland for about 11 years now. I was planning on visiting the US this June for vacation and I was confused on the state of my permanent resident card which expired in 2017 and my overall permanent resident status. I wasn’t even aware that I had a permanent resident card until last week when I was trying to fill in the ESTA application and I asked my dad just to be sure if I had any “national identity card issued by any other country”.

A CBP ESTA Officer then informed me that I am ineligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA if I am a Lawful Permanent Resident and I should contact my nearest US embassy or consulate to obtain appropriate travel documentation. First I tried contacting the US embassy in Finland via email and they told me I should contact the US consulate. I tried asking questions from the US consulate on the matter and they didn’t really answer any of my questions specifically. They just said to return the card to their offices and to fill in the I-407 form so I won't have any problems with traveling to the USA. To me that sounds like I would still have some permanent residence status if the consulate wants me to fill in a “Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status”.

So I was wondering if there are any other options for me to travel to the states other than by getting rid of my permanent resident status, if I do still have that, which I am still unsure of? I might want to move back to the US after my studies in Finland so that's why I wouldn't like to abandon it completely. My flight to the US is scheduled in the beginning of June (~4 weeks), and right now I'm scared it's too late to get a travel document.

So, is there any way to still make it, and is my only option here to abandon my old permanent resident status?

  • How old were you when you moved to Finland? Have you filed US tax returns? – Patricia Shanahan May 3 at 8:39
  • @PatriciaShanahan I was 10 and turning 11 that year – Atte K May 3 at 10:32
  • As a separate but related matter, you continue to be considered a resident alien for tax purposes (and thus subject to US taxes on your worldwide income no matter where you live) unless and until you file I-407, or you have received a final determination of abandonment of residence from an immigration judge. – user102008 May 3 at 16:05
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From what you have stated on here, you no longer have permanent residency. Your parents abandoned their permanent residency and carried you along. Parents abandonment are reasonably imputed to minor children.

Matter of Zamora

Children

If an LPR parent is found to have abandoned his or her residence, and has taken his or her child out of the US, the parent’s abandonment will be imputed to the child. The child’s intentions are irrelevant – only the parent’s are, according to the BIA. Matter of Zamora, 17 I&N Dec. 395 (BIA 1980)

This is what will happen if you attempt to travel on your permanent residence card. First of all the airline in your country will likely prevent you from boarding because your physical card has expired. Even if you’re able to clear that hurdle, immigration at the airport in the USA have no choice but to admit you because abandonment is only determined by an immigration judge. At the airport immigration would charge an LPR it believed had abandoned his or her status under INA § 237(a)(1)(A) for being inadmissible at the time of admission.

You will receive a Notice To Appear before an immigration judge who will make the final determination. From what you have provided it will be a formality, your permanent residence will almost certainly be deemed abandoned. At that point you will start accruing illegal presence which you will have to declare whenever you’re applying for a visa to any country whose forms ask if you’ve ever been deported or refused entry into a country.

To save you this trouble and out of an abundance of caution, the embassy asked you to formally abandon your permanent residency so that you don’t face the issues outlined above. They’re not telling you this because they think you’re still a permanent resident. It’s just to make your travels stress free.

Save yourself the trouble, or alternatively if you have an appetite for risk taking, time to waste in immigration court, and spare money for an immigration attorney, attempt to travel with the card in your possession.

  • 2
    I think it should be made clearer what would happen if OP just applied for an ESTA and traveled under the VWP. I don't think the permanent resident card counts as "a passport or national identity card issued for travel by any other country", and since OP is no longer an LPR, they should be OK with using an ESTA, wouldn't they? – jcaron May 3 at 10:22
  • @jcaron They should be fine traveling on ESTA contrary to what the CBP officer said, particularly if they do so after relinquishing the permanent resident card. – user 56513 May 3 at 10:35
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    @jcaron In reality there is little to no risk because they will just let him sign the abandonment forms at the entry point in the USA. The question is will his ESTA be approved? I don’t know if there is a question in the application asking if you’re a permanent resident. I would think if there is and he answers in the affirmative, the ESTA will automatically be denied. – user 56513 May 3 at 10:40
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    @HenningMakholm US citizens can get ESTA authorization (and, user 56513, the application does not ask about LPR status), so there's certainly a chance the ESTA will be approved. In that case, at the border, the immigration inspector will either notice the permanent residence status and offer the chance to relinquish it explicitly, or not notice and just admit the traveler. – phoog May 3 at 13:15
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    @phoog, I know that but the answer to the OP's question ought to be in the answer post rather than in a comment thread. – Henning Makholm May 3 at 13:39

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