After finally being issued a Green Card, the last thing any Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States would want is to lose his / her permanent residency status. It is important that LPRs understand certain requirements they must fulfill in order to maintain this status. Other than obeying all of the laws of the United States and filing income tax returns there, LPRs must take steps to ensure they are not risking abandonment of their permanent residency status. In order to do this, it is essential that LPRs spend at least 180 days each year in the United States. But what specifically is the “United States”?

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 101 (a) (38): the term “United States,” except as otherwise specifically herein provided, when used in a geographical sense, means the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Therefore, LPRs could spend time in the continental United States or any of the U.S. commonwealths to fulfill their residency requirements. This definition may be particularly interesting for LPRs who face a 7,136 mile, eleven hour long flight from China to the continental United States.

Instead of traveling halfway across the world to fulfill their U.S. residency requirements, LPRs can travel to Saipan, an island located 1,891 miles east of Shanghai, China in the Pacific Ocean. In just about four short hours, U.S. LPRs spending time in China could technically be in the United States. Saipan is the largest, most populated island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The island group was acquired by the United States in 1978 and for immigration purposes is considered part of the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act’s definition. The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 extended U.S. immigration laws to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, therefore replacing the former Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands immigration system. Immigration laws are defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act section 101(a)(17) to include: this Act and all laws, conventions, and treaties of the United States relating to the immigration, exclusion, deportation, expulsion, or removal of aliens. LPRs can maintain an address, employment, bank accounts, and property in Saipan to establish their strong ties to the United States and secure their residency status.

For LPRs of the United States who find fulfilling the residency requirement difficult because of strong ties to countries across the world or who may have even shied away from lawful permanent residency because of this requirement, the “United States” may have just gotten a little closer to their countries of origin.

Gianna Bove