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I have my green card. How do I keep it?

Immigrants seeking permanent residency in Kentucky or in any other state know that green is gold. That is, the green card is gold. That visa allows a person from another country to live and work in the United States.

Permanent residency imbues the holder with many of the same rights as a U.S. citizen. Travel within the states is unfettered. Voting in some local elections might be possible, too. Once obtained, the status can be relatively easy to hold onto. However, there are circumstances that can lead to revocation. If an appeal of green card denial is needed, working with a skilled attorney is advised.

What can cost a green card?

Violating a law -- federal or state -- puts a green card in possible jeopardy. Conviction on any charge could create conditions for deportation, so an arrest for any reason warrants contacting an immigration attorney immediately. That's because a criminal defense attorney might not understand the ramifications of an immigration status change.

Nor does the conviction have to be for a criminal offense. Any law violation that carries a "moral" component could result in removal, even if you serve no jail time. Subjectivity enters the picture.

The biggest threat to your green card status may come if you choose to leave the U.S. for an extended period. There's no hard definition for what that time period is. However, if you leave the country for more than one year, reentry is likely to be difficult.

If you know you are going to be out of the U.S. for more than a year, you can apply for a reentry permit before you depart. For trips of shorter duration, the key rests in being able to demonstrate to border authorities that you are maintaining your permanent residency status.

That's why many experts encourage cardholders who leave the country to return within six months. That is not a guarantee problems will be avoided, but it could go a long way toward protecting the value of your permanent resident status.

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