FOR centuries, fortune tellers have kept people awake at night, sleepwalking during daytime and uncertain of their dreams after their future had been laid down in a deck of cards, or tarot suit.
Now, prognostications about the future are a mere click away.
The uncertainty comes from the dilemma of which search results to believe, regardless of whether one is reading from a ubiquitous six-inch mobile screen or a wall-sized projection of facts or alternate truth.
Let us take a closer look at cards — the US green card in particular — and see what the fine print foretells.
Green card reading is less about the future than it is about the lawful permanent residents present.On Jan. 1, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that there were 13.9 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States. The total was 1.8 percent less than from January 2020 following a sharp decline in the admission of new LPRs “following the suspension of certain immigration-related government services and the partial travel ban imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
From the historical range of 80-100,000 a month, the monthly flow of legal immigrants — more like a trickle — dropped to 20,000, with family-preference visa applicants remaining stuck at NVC as documentarily qualified. Meanwhile their immediate relative category counterparts (spouse, minor children, parents of US citizens) and employment-based beneficiaries are given priority visa scheduling at the US embassy.
If it is any consolation, many would-be green card holders are also stuck in the Philippines, marooned by visa and travel restrictions that followed the booming tourist arrivals in 2019.
A year before the pandemic, Department of Tourism records show 1,064,440 visitors from the United States were admitted, third highest following those from South Korea and China.
In the same year (2019) there were 14,610 balikbayans, or Philippine passport-holders living permanently overseas, who came back to the country till March 2020.
While there was no breakdown as to where the balikbayans were a permanent resident of, it is fair to assume that a considerable number of them were green card holders or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the US.
Maintaining PR status
The USCIS sends the green card to the address that an immigrant visa applicant indicates would be his or her permanent address in the US. The green card is the document that proves the transition of an immigrant visa applicant to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
An LPR is expected to be physically present in the US rather than outside. This residency requirement is both essential to maintaining LPR status and qualifying for naturalization as a US citizen.
Until he or she is issued the naturalization certificate, the LPR holds a Philippine passport as evidence of identity and citizenship. As such, complying with the residency requirements is essential.
Losing PR status
The USCIS policy manual states that a lawful permanent resident may lose LPR status either by abandoning it intentionally or otherwise such as:
– Moving to another country and intending to live there permanently;
– Declaring “nonimmigrant” status on the US tax returns; or
– Remaining outside of the United States for an extended period: recurring, repeated temporary absences of 180 days or more within a year; or being out of the US for two years or more without a reentry permit.
Wait, what is the LPR tarot card’s definition of a temporary absence?
The LPR may argue that the one or two-year stay out of the US is “temporary” as shown by:
– The reason for the trip;
– How long the planned absence from the US was;
– Any other circumstances of the absence/s; and
– Any events that may have prevented the LPR from returning to the US to resume permanent residency.
Note: Obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave, or a returning resident visa (SB-1) from a US consulate while abroad, may help show that you planned for this to be a temporary absence.
Usually, balikbayans are granted a year to stay. Staying for more than a year in balikbayan status does not make a Filipino a TNT in his own country.
But staying for more than 12 months could affect the balikbayan’s LPR status.
The ability to remain or maintain status as a lawful permanent resident is distinct and different from the validity period of the green card.
The green card is normally valid for 10 years.
During this period, prolonged absences can affect the LPR status. A green card holder may be out of the US without losing resident status: 1) for 180 days or less than a year; 2) for up to two years with a reentry permit.
An LPR-Balikbayan (LPR-B) who stays for two years or more outside the US would lose residency status even if the green card remains valid.
Getting a ticket is easy, especially if one knows a travel agency/or agent who may not be aware (or oblivious) to the USCIS rules for returning LPR-Bs.
With baggage in tow, an LPR-B at the airline counter will be asked to provide evidence of eligibility to board the flight. This includes a valid visa and unexpired green card. However, the check-in staff will also check the date of last arrival to verify if the LPR-B is eligible for issuance of a boarding pass.
Even if an LPR-B gets a boarding pass, a Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) officer is required to check eligibility to board the flight. A friendly or not-too-thorough BI may waive the LPR-B through.
However, US immigration at the port of entry will determine whether the LPR-B will be admitted as a lawful permanent resident or not.
The stamps of arrival and departure to and from the US shall be examined and verified if the LPR-B has supporting documents to establish lawful permanent resident status.
When the pandemic struck, LPRs still in the country were not able to return to the US. Those without re-entry permits had another year to keep their green card status.
But what if the green card were to expire or expired while in the country?
On Sept. 26, 2022, the US Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an order “automatically extending the validity of permanent resident cards (also known as green cards) to 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file Form I-90, application to replace permanent resident card.”
An LPR must apply for renewal before the current green card expires. The renewal or extension form is the I-90, application to replace permanent resident card (green card).
Once the renewal application is submitted, proof of payment for renewal would be accepted as evidence of maintaining LPR status.
Before the rule, Form I-90 receipt notices had previously provided a 12-month extension of the validity of a green card. The September 26 announcement extends the validity for another year (from 12 to 24 months). After that date, the card becomes “unreadable” — no longer valid.
The receipt notices can be presented with an expired green card as evidence of continued status. This extension is expected to help applicants who experience longer processing times, because they will receive proof of lawful permanent resident status as they await their renewed green card.
For LPR-Bs who have not applied for renewal of their green cards and have stayed in the Philippines for more than two years the next option is to apply for a returning resident visa.
Another card to add to the suit. But at least it is readable.