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Commuter Green Card

DESCRIPTION OF DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN COMMUTER AND REGULAR US RESIDENT ALIEN ("GREEN CARD") STATUS

When processing Lawful Permanent Resident Visas at the US Consulates in contiguous countries (Canada or Mexico) the applicant must elect either full Permanent Residence Status or Commuter Status. That election is made by noting on the first set of materials sent from the Consulate (Packet III) by indicating that only the applicant (and not the family) will be immigrating. This can also be done at the final Consular Visa Interview. Commuter Status must be renewed every six (6) months at the local US port of entry. It can be lost if the individual ceases employment. More importantly, there are no derivative benefits for family dependents.

US State Department Regulations require that an Immigrant Visa (Terms - Lawful Permanent Resident, Resident Alien, and Green Card, are all synonymous) applicant, upon completion of all necessary steps for US Resident Alien status at a US Consulate, appear for inspection and admission at US port of entry. They must do so with their sealed Consular Visa Packet issued by the Consular Officer with a present intent to immigrate as a Permanent Resident in the US. They must present their Visa documentation within 180 days of Consular approval. There is no provision for extension for any reason. At the time of Visa interview, an applicant must notify the Consulate they elect either regular or commuter status. Below is a general brief description of both options.

Regular Green Card:

This status is for individuals entering the US with the specific intent of living indefinitely in the US. The overwhelming majority of Resident Aliens elect regular Permanent Resident status.

Key points of this status
  • Are eligible to apply for US citizenship after 5 years of permanent residency entry (3 years eligibility if married to US citizen).
  • Family members who apply with the principal are derivatively eligible for same Permanent Resident status.
  • International assignments abroad are permitted, without seriously negatively impacting Resident Alien status for up to four (4) years, with prior written governmental authorization.
  • No requirement that any family members work or attend school in US, as long as their residence is in the US (reverse commuting from the US to Canada or Mexico is acceptable).
  • Are eligible to live in US for entire life, and status is not lost at time of retirement or unemployment as long as all requirements to maintaining lawful status are followed (maintain good moral character, etc…).

Commuter Green Card:

Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Regulations permit the Visa applicant of Canada or Mexico to elect commuter status. This is not a statutory status. It is only an administrative permission granted on a rolling six (6) month basis to exempt the individual from the 180-day move over requirement to acquire a Lawful Permanent Resident Visa. It permits the employee only to live in Canada or Mexico and commute daily to and for US employment. It is a limited Visa status for the employee only! Accordingly, there is no ability for the employee to act as a Visa sponsor for derivative spouse or child. Unless and until the individual has converted that status to full US Permanent Residence. He/she cannot satisfy Naturalization requirements or confer any derivative immigration benefits under the immigration laws on any family member's behalf or on behalf of any relatives. The following points apply to commuters as long as they hold this status and live outside the US.

Key points of this status
  • Status is valid only as long as the applicant continues to work in the US, and proves that he/she has worked in the US for at least 90 days during the last year.
  • Status expires every six (6) months unless a letter is provided from a US employer stating that the individual is still employed.
  • Cannot later bring immediate family to the US until the primary applicant first moves in Permanent Residence to the US. He/she must then process a family Second Preference Petition, which currently has a several year Visa backlog delay. Family members MUST remain outside US until processing is completed.
  • Cannot take international assignments and still maintain status.
  • Status expires as soon as first six (6) month extension is missed because of failure to continue working in the US (retirement or prolonged unemployment).
  • Inspection officers can cancel this category at any time. There is no guarantee of its continuity.
Switching Back and Forth Between Statuses:

It is possible for an applicant to have one form of Resident Alien Status and then convert it to another form of status (commuter to regular and vice versa). Frequent changes may be viewed as suspect, and could lead to a fraud investigation (a finding of fraud is a perpetual bar to US admission).

 
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