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I am an Australian citizen and was granted permanent residency in the US in 1985 due to my marriage to a US citizen. When the marriage ended in 1987,I left the US to return home and did not complete any paperwork to declare that I was abandoning my LPR. I returned to the US in 1989 for a two month holiday on a tourist visa. I haven't been back since but would like to visit for another holiday later this year. My question is - can I simply apply for an ESTA or does my previous LPR mean I would have to apply for a B-2 visa? (Even though I didn't complete any paperwork to give up my permanent residency, and have since visited on a tourist visa).

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The fact that you've been issued a B-2 visa (or any nonimmigrant visa) implies that the US recognizes that you are no longer a permanent resident. You can apply for ESTA. If it is denied, you will have to apply for a visa. It's possible that the visa officer will notice your past permanent resident status and ask you to file a formal "record of abandonment" (Form I-407). It's also possible, if your ESTA is granted, that the immigration officer will ask you to submit I-407 as a condition of being admitted to the US.

You can also, of course, take the initiative yourself and submit the I-407 before applying for ESTA. You can do this by mail. From the "where to file" section of the Form I-407 page:

Mail Form I-407 to the Eastern Form Center.

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS Eastern Forms Center
Attn: I-407 Unit
PO Box 567
Williston, VT 05495

For FedEx, UPS, DHL or other express/registered deliveries:

USCIS Eastern Forms Center
Attn: I-407 Unit
124 Leroy Road
Williston, VT 05495

In very rare circumstances, a USCIS international field office or U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate without a USCIS international field office may allow you to submit a Form I-407 in person if you need immediate proof that you have abandoned your LPR status. The most common need for an expedited application is to apply for an A or G visa. You may also submit Form I-407 to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at a U.S. port of entry.

I have no idea how likely it is that this would change the outcome of your ESTA application, but, once again, if it is in fact refused you will be able to apply for a visa and, given the circumstances you've mentioned in the question, it is very likely to be granted.

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  • Thank you so much. I also felt that since I had already been issued a B-2 previously, that my LPR was no longer recognized. I'm surprised though that you think I would have to submit Form I-407 given the length of time since my LPR. But i will make inquiries. Again, thank you! – Westy Feb 6 at 15:20
  • @Westy "I'm surprised though that you think I would have to submit Form I-407 given the length of time since my LPR": I say that on the understanding that you must be treated as an LPR unless and until there has been a formal finding of abandonment by a judge or other duly authorized official, or a formal declaration on your part of the same. I don't think that would change because of elapsed time. My understanding may be incorrect, of course. If they don't ever ask you to file it, though, I suppose it's probably fine if you don't. – phoog Feb 6 at 17:17

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