Re-Entry Permits for Green Card Holders
So, you are now a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States and you want to travel abroad for a lengthy period of time. What should you do?
Lawful permanent residents are allowed to travel inside and outside the United States without a problem, assuming they have not violated any immigration laws, and return to the United States using their green card. However, problems often arise when a lawful permanent resident wishes to remain abroad for more than one year.
Under the current immigration law, lawful permanent residents who remain outside the United States for more than one year are deemed to have abandoned their LPR status in the United States.
However, an LPR may lawfully remain outside the United States for over one year and up two years if he or she filed for a Reentry Permit prior to leaving the United States. It is important to file for a reentry permit in this case so that USCIS will not consider a lawful permanent resident to have abandoned his or her LPR status.
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) does not have to adjudicate a request for a Reentry Permit before an LPR leaves the United States, but his or her application must be submitted prior to leaving the United States. The LPR may be able to pick up the reentry permit at a consulate or overseas Department of Homeland Security office.
Obtaining a Reentry Permit can delay an LPR’s ability to become a U.S. citizen. In order to become a U.S. citizen, an LPR must physically reside in the United States for five years subsequent to becoming an LPR (only three years if married to a U.S. citizen). Moreover, the LPR must be physically present in the United States for at least one-half of the required residency period, and cannot be absent from the country for a continuous period of more than one year during the period for which continuous residence is required.
Although a lawful permanent resident can obtain a Reentry Permit to enter the United States after remaining abroad for more than a year, it is important to note that this period of absence from the country will break the continuous residency requirement for U.S. States citizenship. Upon reentering the United States on the Reentry Permit, the LPR begins to accumulate time towards the continuous residency requirements.
It is important to note that possession of a reentry permit does not preclude a finding by USCIS that the holder abandoned his or her LRP status based on other factors. For example, even though a lawful permanent resident enters the United States for a couple days once a year, USCIS can still determine that he abandoned his LPR status.