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Is the green card worth preserving?

With the global economy slowing down, green card holders are not spared the effects of  the crisis. Quite a number of immigrants are unemployed.

Angelita got her green card five years ago. She had been in the US three years when she decided to return to Manila to take care of her ailing mother. In the last two years, Angelita stayed in the US for only a few weeks and lived in Manila a longer time.

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During her last trip to the US, Angelita was subjected to a secondary inspection, an extensive interview by an immigration inspector. She was told that her immigrant visa or green card would be revoked if she continues to stay in the Philippines for long stretches of time.

Angelita has been thinking of giving up her green card. She e-mailed me mid August saying she had decided to turn in her green card and convert it into a tourist visa. Four days later, she changed her mind. Her query: Can I apply for a re-entry permit in the US Embassy in Manila instead? Or is it possible to apply for re-entry permit here in the US?

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Angelita admitted that she has a well paying job in Manila. She said she was having a difficult time finding a job in the US and she may be better off keeping her job and at the same time being with her mother. However, she wants to preserve her status as an immigrant in case circumstances change that will afford her again  better opportunities in the US. What would be her best course of action?

Green card vs tourist visa

The Philippines is one of four countries that suffers from a severe backlog in the applications for immigrant visas.  The longest wait for someone who wishes to obtain a green card through a family based petition is 24 years. This refers to a  petition filed by a US citizen on behalf of his or her siblings. Waiting time for petitions under the other preference categories varies anywhere from 10 to 16 years. Petitions by US citizens on behalf of parents, spouses or minor children are not affected by the backlog as they are considered immediate relatives and are processed quickly.

Considering the lengthy waiting time, once the green card is approved, most of those granted immigrant visas value its worth. It could open the door to many opportunities.

On the other hand, a tourist visa allows the holder to visit the US for a short period of time and return to the Philippines thereafter.

No exchange of visas

If one has no real intention to live in the United States, one can give up the green card by signing an abandonment form at the US Embassy or at the US Department of Homeland Security. Surrendering the green card, however, does not necessarily translate into an automatic grant of a visitor visa. There is no “exchange” of visa statuses.

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The appropriate application for a nonimmigrant visitor visa will have to be filed and the former green card holder will have to undergo the usual interview.  The consular officer will determine whether the applicant has sufficient ties in the Philippines and has no reason to overstay in the US. The fact that the former green card holder seldom traveled to the US when he or she was an immigrant could be seen as a positive factor in determining intention. However, financial ability to travel abroad will also be taken into account. The applicant must be able to show evidence of sufficient funds or income required of a visitors visa holder. If temporary intent, sufficient ties and resources are proven, then the former green card holder may be granted a visitors visa.

Walk on the Safe Side

Since Angelita is not sure of her decision to give up her green card, her best course of action may be to apply for a re-entry permit with the immigration service while she is in the US. This may not be applied for at the US Embassy in Manila. As soon as the re-entry permit is issued in the US, her intention is clearly established and she will no longer risk an abandonment finding.

In times of uncertainty and if there is still doubt about the path that one wishes to take, it may be better to stay on the safe side by preserving the green card.

(Tancinco may be reached at [email protected] or at 887 7177 or 721 1963)

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TAGS: Economy, Filipino, Green card, Immigration, Migration, United States, US
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