While the naturalization process holds hope for many, it can be a long and difficult journey. It takes a lot to get to this point on the path to citizenship, and few would want to jeopardize their permanent residence status once they reach that stage.

The top causes for a lost green card are mistakes, status abandonment or deportation orders by an immigration judge. Specifically, let’s talk about what qualifies as a mistake or status abandonment, which you as the individual have the most control over.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, it’s important to avoid these five mistakes as any can result in the cancellation of your green card.

  • Do not move to another country to live.
  • Do not stay abroad for an extended period without plans to return. Being away for more than a year, for example, results in cancellation.
  • Do not fail to declare income to the IRS and state tax authorities.
  • Do not declare non-immigrant status on a tax return.
  • Do not fail to register for the military’s Selective Service System as a male.

If you do lose your green card, the consequences may affect more than your own access to the United States. If you are sponsoring a family member, they could also lose their status. For your own sake and that of your family legacy, remember these risks and navigate any tricky situations with care and, possibly, the advice of an experienced lawyer.