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I originally posted this question on expatriates.stackexchange.com, and another user suggested that I ask the question on this site because he felt it is more closely related to travel...

My wife was granted a conditional permanent resident status (green card) in the US and we started the process for removing the conditional status while we were living in the States after being married for more than two years (as per the requirement). Before receiving a response to our application, we made the decision to return to her home country for work reasons. We recently received mail from USCIS requesting further documentation to prove the "legitimacy" of our marriage. The deadline to submit the additional documents recently passed, and I had already decided to give up pursuing the application process anyway, since we will not be returning to live in the US for at least five years. My concern (and question) is this: Can my wife still travel to the US to visit my family, or will the lapsed/failed green card status create an issue that prevents her from even entering the country?

  • What nationality is she? – Doc Jan 15 '15 at 12:03
  • @Doc She is South Korean. – pyobum Jan 16 '15 at 1:38
  • @pnuts In that case, would you say her past application and former conditional resident status will not interfere in any way with her being able to enter the country for the yearly 3-month (90-day?) period granted to tourists/travelers? – pyobum Jan 16 '15 at 1:38
  • @pnuts My main concern is that in situations like this, USCIS may refuse entry to prevent people who have been denied PR status from returning on a tourist visa and staying past the 90 days. I posted this question on expatriates.SE as well and a user suggested that we officially "surrender" her green card/PR status via bureaucratic form before she tries to go back for travel. I think we'll have to do this just to be on the safe side. She is considering visiting my family for 2-3 weeks in the near future with our daughter, and being turned away at the port of entry would be a nightmare. – pyobum Jan 16 '15 at 2:39
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There's no specific rule saying you can't enter the US on a tourist visa after your PR status or other visa expires. However, that's not to say it won't raise questions. They're probably going to have what happened on their records, and they'll want an explanation of why she's visiting, how she'll support herself, and evidence that she plans on leaving again.

Why? Because lots of people who have their PR status or visas cancelled, try to over stay or re-enter on other 'visas' to pretend to be tourists, so they can keep on working. They don't want that to happen, so will need evidence.

However, given all this hassle with visas, marriage, and visits, it's complicated enough that you may want to consider meeting with an immigration consultant / lawyer for more information, to increase your chances of 'ticking the boxes' ie - doing the right thing. There's only so much advice you can take from a guy on the internet ;)

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To provide an update and back up the answer provided by littleadv here:

My wife completed the I-407 form, went to an interview (scheduled) with the US embassy here in Korea, and relinquished her permanent residence status. The official gave her back a signed copy of the form showing that she had given up her status. A short time later, we applied for an ESTA so she could visit the US and it was approved. When it came time to actually visit the US, the customs and immigration officer reviewed her papers and admitted her without trouble.

I realize this is anecdotal, but it does confirm that, under normal circumstances (i.e. no criminal history, overstays of past visas, or other irregularities), former PR holders can re-enter the US as tourists (and even get an ESTA).

(Note to mods: My apologies again for the cross-posting of the question. It did seem to generate a fair amount of interest on both sites and presumably can be useful to both travelers and expats. I will avoid any future cross-posting on either site.)

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    I think the threshold for getting an ESTA is actually set pretty low - after all, they normally come back within a few seconds and in now way comit the CBP to actually admit you. – CMaster Nov 19 '15 at 9:17
  • It would probably have helped to have stated in the question that you were a VWP-eligible nationality. – DJClayworth Jun 21 '18 at 14:14
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My green card expired and I did not renew it. I entered on an ESTA visa. At the port of entry, they noticed my expired green card and retained me for questioning. I said I did not want to renew it anymore. After looking at me strangely and warning me several times, they accepted the cancellation of the green card and let me through on my ESTA visa ( I am a singapore citizen). I have since travelled on the same ESTA this year also , with no problems. It is better to surrender the card if you have no use for it, instead of just not taking any action. Keeps the slate clean.

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I returned my Green Card voluntarily after several years living in Europe and filing taxes (1040 forms etc.) but was not allowed to enter the US two years afterwards with an ESTA. I am Western European citizen, not muslim and of Caucasian ethnicity. The reason for my refusal according to DHS was that they will forever consider me a potential illegal immigrant alien because "nobody returns a green card voluntarily". Interesting...

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    Your case is not the norm for people who relinquished their green cards voluntarily. – user 56513 Jun 19 '17 at 12:12
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    I believe it is more a comment then an answer... – Marcel P. Jun 19 '17 at 12:25

protected by Community Jun 21 '18 at 9:01

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