Lawful Permanent Residence (“green card”) status requires that an individual intend to reside permanently in the United States. Among the many benefits of holding a green card, a Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) may work in the U.S., travel abroad, and ultimately pursue U.S. citizenship. However, while an LPR may travel abroad temporarily, extended stays outside of the U.S. may jeopardize his or her LPR status, affect eligibility for naturalization, and any travel abroad could subject an LPR with certain criminal convictions to new grounds of removal.
Abandonment of Permanent Residency
As the title implies, lawful permanent residents must intend to permanently reside in the U.S. If an LPR no longer intends to make the U.S. his or her permanent home, his or her LPR status can be deemed abandoned and the U.S. government may revoke his or her green card. However, if a visit abroad is only a temporary one, then LPR status is not deemed abandoned.
When LPRs return from foreign travel, they must present their green card or passport with the LPR stamp to the Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”). With each entry back into the U.S., LPRs are subject to questioning and inspection by CBP, and, particularly after an extended absence, an Immigration Officer may challenge an LPR about abandonment of LPR status.
- Short Trips Abroad of 6 Months or Less.
- For most short trips abroad of six months or less, an LPR should be able to reenter the U.S. with a passport and green card (or passport stamp of LPR status).
- Trips Abroad of Over 6 Months
- However, an LPR risks having his or her LPR deemed abandoned when he or she is absent from the U.S. for longer than six months.
- Reentry Permits
- Therefore, prior to departing on such an extended trip, an LPR should apply for a Reentry Permit. This is particularly critical for trips of over a year. LPRs need to plan ahead for such trips because they must be physically present in the U.S. when applying for the reentry permit and should remain in the U.S. until their fingerprints are taken.
A reentry permit is valid for two years and allows LPRs to reenter the U.S. prior to expiration without having to return every six months to preserve LPR status. A reentry permit is not renewable, but an LPR may return to the U.S. before expiration in order to apply for a new one.
It is important to understand what a reentry permit will—and will not—do. Possession of a valid reentry permit prevents Immigration from relying solely on the length of the absence to establish abandonment of residency. However, whether an LPR has abandoned his or her residency is a factual determination specific to each case, and possession of a reentry permit does not prevent Immigration from questioning whether residency has been abandoned.
- Merely Visiting the U.S. Every Year or Even Every 6 Months is Not Enough
- Similarly, although helpful, merely visiting the U.S. every year, or even every 6 months, also does not prevent Immigration from inquiring into whether residency was abandoned. For instance, if an LPR lives abroad and returns to the U.S. only on brief annual visits on round-trip tickets, an Immigration Officer could challenge if the LPR has abandoned his or her residency.
- Evidence of LPR Intent
- Therefore, an LPR making a lengthy trip(s) abroad should also maintain and carry evidence that he or she intends to reside in the U.S. permanently, and that the trip abroad was only a temporary one. This can include evidence that:
- - the purpose of the trip was temporary
- - the visit was for a fixed period of time, with a fixed end date
- - any delay in returning to the U.S. was outside of the LPR’s control
- - the LPR always had the intent to make the U.S. his or her permanent home (such as family ties, income tax returns, property ownership, organization membership, etc.)