Becoming a Legal Permanent Resident (“LPR”) obtaining a green card is not a legal right, but rather a revocable privilege. This means that you may lose your LPR status. One way that loss occurs is when you abandon your 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 intend 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 types of connections you maintain in the United States. For a more detailed explanation of how to preserve your permanent residency status or green card you may refer to our previous blog post Preserving Your U.S. Permanent Residency Status or Green Card.
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 and 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 years and serves as proof that you do not intend to abandon your permanent residence despites a prolonged absence from the United States.
It is crucial to note that although obtaining a re-entry permit is useful for proving that you did not abandon your permanent residence, it does not preserve residence for Naturalization purposes. As such, if you plan to become a Naturalized U.S. Citizen, a prolonged absence from the United States may create complications with your Naturalization case.
If you plan on staying out of the United States for a long period of time, consult our office prior to departing so we can advise you on how to preserve your LPR status. Additionally, if you are interested in becoming a U.S. Citizen but have long absences outside of the United States, consult our office prior to applying for Naturalization so we can assist you in obtaining approval of your application.