Obtaining a Commuter Green Card

February 16, 2016

“I live in Mexico but travel regularly to the U.S. to work for a U.S. employer”

States such as Texas which have a border with a contiguous territory of the United States see a higher incidence of lawful permanent residents living in Mexico but commuting to work in the United States. You may wonder how this is even possible given the significant amount of regulation applicable to maintaining one’s green card. This is known as commuter status and is generally available only to residents of Mexico and Canada. Working in the United States allows these residents to accrue at least 6 months of presence in the U.S. during a continuous 12-month period, a requirement to maintain this type of green card. If a commuter resident doesn’t work in the U.S. for a continuous 6-month period, the resident is in danger of losing the green card. Two exceptions to this requirement are 1) a loss of employment due to circumstances beyond the commuter’s control such as illness or injury (but not lack of job opportunity in the U.S.) and 2) situations where commuters can demonstrate to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials that they worked in the U.S. for at least 90 days in the 12-month period before trying to enter the United States. CBP officers monitor travel patterns of commuter residents to make sure they are maintaining status in this way.

Important to note is that commuter residents cannot apply for U.S. citizenship and count the time they have been living outside the country – this is because they can’t meet the residence requirement without actually living in the United States. A commuter resident wishing to become eligible for naturalization should move to the U.S. and obtain a new green card that does not have a commuter designation on it.

Applying for and renewing commuter lawful permanent resident status requires specific knowledge of the procedures involved. Please contact our Texas-based law firm for a consultation in this area.

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