What’s a #GreenCard anyway? It’s NOT what you don’t know. It’s what you know that isn’t true!

Introduction – It’s about the right to live permanently in the United States

There are tens of thousands of people who have “Green Cards” who live outside the United States. Some of them want to maintain their Green Cards which they understand to mean maintaining their right to live permanently in the United States. Otherwise do NOT want to maintain their Green Cards meaning they do NOT want to maintain their right to live permanently in the United States.

The “Green Card” itself, is different from the “right to live permanently in the United States”.

Focusing on the “right to live permanently in the United States” – There are few cases where people understand:

1. What is necessary to MAINTAIN their right to live permanently in the United States from an immigration perspective

2. What maintaining the right to live permanently in the United States from an immigration perspective implies in terms of U.S. tax obligations

3. What is necessary to abandon the right to live permanently in the United States from an immigration perspective

4. What abandoning the right to live permanently in the United States may mean from a tax perspective (Expatriation Tax anyone?) The “Expatriation Tax” may apply to those who are “long term residents“.

What’s a Green Card anyway?

As the article in the above tweet makes clear, the Green Card is evidence or proof of having been given the right to live permanently in the United States. As the article states:

“Green card” is a slang term. In the narrowest usage, it is the plastic photo identification card that you receive when you become a U.S. lawful permanent resident.

There is a difference between (1) having been granted the right to live permanently in the United States and (2) the Green Card which is evidence of that right.

In the same way that a U.S. passport is evidence of U.S. citizenship, a Green Card is evidence of the right to live permanently in the United States.

Right to live permanently in the United States (“Immigrant Visa”):

Once granted, the right to live permanently in the United States continues as long as one does NOT abandon the intention to live permanently in the United States. In other words, abandonment of the right is dependent on “intention”.

The Green Card itself (evidence of the right to live permanently in the United States):

The “Green Card” itself is a plastic card that is proof of having the right to live in the United States. It is NOT the right itself. It is proof of the right. The “Green Card” is used as a “travel document” when one reenters the United States. (Those considering spending more than one year outside the United States should apply for a “reentry permit“. This permit will provide strong evidence of your intention to live permanently in the United States.) One is also required to keep the “Green Card” in one’s possession while in the United States. In the same way that a U.S. passport is valid for only a fixed period of time, a “Green Card” is valid for only a fixed period of time. The “Green Card” is currently valid for a ten year period and then must be renewed. Note that the renewal of the “Green Card” does NOT define the right to live permanently in the United States.

Note that:

1. It is entirely possible to have a valid Green Card and have lost the right to live permanently in the United States; and

2. It is entirely possible to NOT have a valid Green Card and still have the right to live permanently in the United States.

To put it simply:

Do NOT confuse the “Green Card” as a “travel document” (or as evidence of the right to live permanently in the United States) with the continued viability of the right to live in the United States!

As long as you have the right to live permanently in the United States you ARE subject to full taxation under the Internal Revenue Code. The cases of Topsnik 1 and Topsnik 2 are good examples of this principle!

The failure to renew the Green Card does NOT mean that one has lost the right to live permanently in the United States!

Further information …

John Richardson