You must be a PERMANENT Resident not a SOMETIMES Resident
It is an all too common situation — a person finally obtains Legal Permanent Resident status in the United States only to find they still have business or family concerns, which require them to leave the United States for an extended period of time. If you find yourself in a similar situation, please take note of the following.
Legal Permanent Resident status is not a legal right, but a revocable privilege, which means that a person may lose their Legal Permanent Resident status even after received their “green card.” One way that loss of Legal Permanent Resident status occurs is when a Legal Permanent Resident abandons their permanent residence in the United States.
Specifically, if you stay outside the United States for less than six continuous months, you should not have any difficulty re-entering the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident. However, absences from the United States between more than six continuous months and one continuous year raise a rebuttable presumption that an individual intends to abandon permanent resident status. Such a lengthy trip will likely raise a red flag with an immigration officer when you attempt to return. You may need to explain your absence and prove that you did not intent to abandon your residence. Among the many factors that influence the decision of abandonment is the length and reason for the absence and the number and type of connection the Legal Permanent Resident maintains in the United States.
If you travel abroad for a continuous year or more, you will be required to obtain a re-entry permit in order to be readmitted to the United States. You must apply for a re-entry permit prior to departing the United States. A re-entry permit is filed on Form I-131 (Filing Fee: $445.00). Additionally, applicants who are between the ages of 14 and 79 years of age must provide biometrics (i.e., fingerprints and photographs) at an Application Support Center before departing the United States. If the re-entry permit is issued, it is usually granted for two (2) years and serves as proof that the individual does not intend to abandon permanent residence despites a prolonged absence from the United States.
However, it is crucial to note that obtaining a re-entry permit is useful for proving that you did not abandon your permanent residence, but does not preserve residence for Naturalization purposes. So, if you plan to become a Naturalized U.S. Citizen, a prolonged absence from the United States will likely create issues with your Naturalization case.
If you believe that you may stay out of the country for a long period of time, please consult our office prior to departing the United States. Additionally, if you are interested in becoming a U.S. Citizen, but have long absences outside of the United States, please consult our office prior to beginning the application process.