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How to Legally Travel Abroad as a Permanent Resident of the U.S.

Posted by Gutierrez Law Firm on September 11, 2013

Green card recipients are permitted to travel abroad in accordance with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidelines. USCIS carefully monitors how long a permanent resident remains outside the United States. Remaining out of the country without taking certain precautions can result in the initiation of removal proceedings and the loss of permanent resident status.

Permanent Resident Travel Penalties

Every U.S. permanent resident should learn about the penalties that can be imposed for traveling abroad for too long. Remaining outside the United States for more than one year without a reentry permit can result in removal proceedings. A passport from the permanent resident’s country of origin or an official refugee-based immigration document will be required to leave the country. If the language on the passport and country to be visited are different, obtaining a passport translation is highly recommended.

Maintaining One’s Ties to the U.S.

USCIS requires permanent residents to maintain a continuous physical presence in the United States. A permanent resident must be able to prove that they have maintained ties to the United States and had no intention of abandoning their green card status while traveling abroad. A permanent resident can use documents related to a home rental, bank account or tax return to prove that they have adequately maintained their ties to the United States. This becomes much more difficult when a permanent resident stays out of the country for more than one year.

How Long Can You Travel?

Living abroad for more than one year or permanently leaving the United States can damage a green card holder’s intention to gain U.S. citizenship. A permanent resident cannot reside outside the United States indefinitely until they have received U.S. citizenship. The following travel timelines apply to permanent residents:

  • Less than one year outside the United States: A reentry permit is not required. Presentation of a valid green card is sufficient to reenter the country.
  • One to two years traveling abroad: The permanent resident must obtain a reentry permit. The permit is valid for two years and must be obtained prior to leaving the country.
  • Departure for more than two years: A returning resident visa will be required to reenter the United States. Remaining abroad for more than two years after obtaining a reentry visa while failing to obtain a returning resident visa may constitute abandonment of permanent resident status.

USCIS may determine that a foreign immigrant has abandoned their permanent resident status if they leave the United States to become a permanent resident of another country, even if the absence is for less than one year.

For expert assistance with all permanent resident travel issues, schedule an appointment with the Gutierrez Law Firm today by calling 210.225.7144.