On the home stretch

Green card holders are finding that their residency in the US may not be as permanent as they thought.

For many Americans, it is getting easier to move around the world as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. But it’s a very different picture for immigrants trying to get back home to the United States.

They have to navigate a range of complex legal situations as they try to return to jobs and families.

While some fled out of fear of rapidly multiplying Covid cases in the US last year, others left to care for sick loved ones. No matter the reason, permanent residents who have been out of the country for more than a year are now facing issues trying to reenter the US.

Allen Orr, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said it’s unclear how many green card holders are still abroad, but the figure is probably in the thousands.

If lawful permanent residents leave without permission, immigration authorities can conclude such residents have abandoned their residency and they risk potentially losing their green card.

Unfortunately, the situation disproportionately harms people of color, says Orr, as they are more likely to be scrutinized or turned away at the border.

Several have described encounters with customs officers as far from welcoming, and reported experiencing unfriendly and suspicious attitudes.

One resident returning from Canada was advised by the US consulate in Nova Scotia to “just try to cross over. That seems to be your best bet.”

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