U.S. tax obligations can be a major consideration for lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) on assignment outside of the United States, and the recommendations made by tax advisors may conflict with the advice given by immigration lawyers. The tax laws do clearly offer certain benefits to lawful permanent residents living and working abroad, and CPAs are generally expected by their clients to minimize tax liability to the extent possible. Claiming those tax benefits, however, can result in the denial of an application for naturalization (to U.S. citizenship) or, even worse, the loss of the green card.
Lawful permanent residents living abroad (who wish to maintain their green card status) should maintain three things: a valid travel document to return to the United States; “unrelinquished” permanent residence in the United States; and “continuous” residence in order to be eligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
Generally, for purposes of inspection, a lawful permanent resident returning to the United States after an absence of 180 days or less will be treated as if he or she never left the United States.
Whether a green card holder is returning to an unrelinquished permanent residence after a temporary absence abroad depends on the intent of the individual
and the specific facts underlying the absence. An immigration officer can look at objective criteria to determine or verify the green card holder’s subjective intent.
These criteria include the following:
- The length of the person’s absences;
- The purpose for the person’s departure;
- The existence of a pre-set date for return after departure from the United States;
- The location and nature of the person’s employment, for example, whether with a U.S. or foreign employer, and whether the employment is temporary or indefinite;
The continuous filing of tax returns as a resident (on Form 1040);
- The maintenance of ties with the United States such as an apartment or house, property ownership, bank accounts, credit cards, and driver’s license;
- The location of the individual’s family members (e.g., where the children attend school).