Happy Fourth Of July — Temporarily on US Soil

Happy Fourth of July

(Updated 4 July 2019)

Green Card to Enter the USAYes, indeed I have been AWOL from the site here a long time.

As we were taught in the military, the “excuse” is, “No Excuse, Sir”.   Everything is going well for me, but life has been happening … that’s all I can say

Took A Little Vacation/Rejuvenation Trip

Today is the 4th of July, 2019 and I am in the good old red, white and blue USA.  Mt. Dora, Florida to be specific.

My wife and I  arrived here in the very wee hours of 2 July after flying MNL-NRT-BOS-MCO.  (Google is your friend)

The trip was not too long (delayed two hours or so by weather in Tokyo, but our JetBlue flight connecting Boston to Orlando was three hours late so everything worked out well (except for the other 180 people who had to wait an extra 3 hours in Boston, just for us ;-0

I’m in the Orlando Area now

and even though I’ve only done a little shopping and dining I am still shocked by the prices here.  Rather than belabor the point I’m going to refer you to an article I wrote last October when we were last in the USA:

Still Keeping Me Rudely Awake 2018

It certainly hasn’t gotten any cheaper to live in Florida, that’s for sure.

But the main thrust of this article isn’t to discuss various country’s costs of living, except ingen=eneral.

I Want To Talk About Proper Use Of The Green Card

I’ve been writing about, answering questions and trying to help with moving to and living in the Philippines for more than 15 years now.

And one of the most frequent questions I get is from guys asking me, “When my wife gets her US Green Card, can we just live in the Philippines and only travel to the USA every few years to keep her Green Card “slive”?

My answer always is, “not really”.

Usually, I get a snappy response back stating something like, “Well my friend John told me he and his wife only go back every few years and it always works for them,”.

Well, Good Wishes To “John and His Wife”, But The Real “Word” is Here:

There are outliers and exceptions to every rule, but just because someone gets away with breaking the law doesn’t mean you will also.

Who is in charge of “green Cards”?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the country’s naturalization and immigration system.

Just What Is A “Green Card”?

USCIS form 1-551

A Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) is issued to all permanent residents as proof that they are authorized to live and work in the United States. (my emphasis)

I emphasized the phrase above because although a Green Cardholder may wish to become a US citizen through naturalization, or not … it’s a personal choice,

But what is not a personal choice is that the I-551 is a document that authorizes one to LIVE and work in the USA.


It is not an authorization to live in the Philippines (or any other country) and comes and go to and from the USA at will.

A lot of Phil-Am couples have the mistaken idea that the foreigner spouse can get a US Green Card and then the couple will go to the Philippines and live, returning occasionally to the US to “keep the Green Card Alive”.

This seldom works out well.

Can You Lose Permanent Residency Status?

Yes, you certainly can.  most commonly by voluntary reasons (which may not always seem “voluntary” to you.)

Here are the USCIS’s most common reasons:

Abandoning Permanent Resident Status

You may also lose your permanent resident status by intentionally abandoning it. You may be found to have abandoned your status if you:

  • Move to another country, intending to live there permanently.
  • Remain outside of the United States for an extended period of time, unless you intended this to be a temporary absence, as shown by:
    • The reason for your trip;
    • How long you intended to be absent from the United States;
    • Any other circumstances of your absence; and
    • Any events that may have prolonged your absence.
    • Note: Obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave, or a returning resident visa (SB-1) from a U.S. consulate while abroad, may assist you in showing that you intended only a temporary absence.
  • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period.
  • Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your U.S. tax returns.

In General, You Can Stay Outside The USA For One Year.

But it’s very important to note that the USCIS looks at more than the total number of days you have been outside the USA.

If a Green Card holder makes frequent trips outside the USA, even for periods of only a few months, the USCIS or the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol officer at the port of entry into the USA) ) may question the individual regarding his or her intentions to reside permanently in the USA.

The officer has the power to deny entry to any Green Card holder and send them back to their home country.

This Is A One Man or Woman Decision With Zero Appeal

Many of us fail to realize the power vested in CBP officers.  If they say “No Entry”, you aren’t going to enter .. case closed.

There is no appeal at the border itself … any appeals can only be filed from outside the USA after the former permanent resident leaves the soil of the USA.

LPR’s Have To Pay Taxes Too.

Another frequent problem, aside from frequent comings and goings, is the relationship between the LPR (Legal Permanent Resident) and the IRS.

Since LPR’s aren’t citizens many feel they have no need to follow US income tax laws.  Bzzzt.  Wrong answer.

An LPR is a “US Person” under law.  And under US law, all “US Persons”, LPR’s, or actual US citizens, must report all income received from anywhere in the world and follow all US IRS rules.

Can The USCIS or the CBP Find Out If You Paid US Income Tax?

I’m not sure of all connections there may be between two agencies, but in this day and age, when Google knows what movie you searched for yesterday and Amazon knows hat size undies you wear, do you want to find out?

To Wind This Article Up, I Want To Recommend This Post from my colleagues at Living in the Pacific.  Note especially what happened to the Filipina wife after only a few trios in and out of Guam.

I’ve visited Guam and I like it a lot.  It might be a solution for some of you who don’t want to live full-time in the USA but need to stop playing “Russian Roulette” with your wife’s Green Card.

Retirement – Guam vs. Philippines