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FAQ: Traveling Internationally as a Permanent Resident

young man with a world globe in his hand, vignettedBelow we answer some frequently asked questions on what Lawful Permanent Residents need to know when traveling abroad.

What documents do I need to travel outside of the United States?
In general, you will need to present a passport from your country of citizenship to travel to a foreign country. In addition, the foreign country may have additional entry/exit requirements (such as a visa). For more information on foreign entry and exit requirements, please see the Department of State’s website here.

What documents do I need to present to reenter the United States?
If seeking to enter the U.S. after temporary travel abroad, you will need to present your valid, unexpired green card (Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card). When arriving at a port of entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer will review your permanent resident card and any other identity documents you present, such as a passport, foreign national I.D. card or U.S. Driver’s License, and determine if you can enter the U.S. 

Does travel outside the U.S. affect my permanent resident status?
Permanent residents are free to travel outside the U.S., and temporary or brief travel usually does not affect your permanent resident status. If it is determined, however, that you did not intend to make the United States your permanent home, you will be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status. A general guide used is whether you have been absent from the U.S. for more than a year. Abandonment may be found to occur in trips of less than a year where it is believed you did not intend to make the U.S. your permanent residence.

While brief trips abroad generally are not problematic, the officer may consider criteria such as whether your intention was to visit abroad only temporarily, whether you maintained U.S. family and community ties, maintained U.S. employment, filed U.S. income taxes as a resident, or otherwise established your intention to return to the U.S. as your permanent home. Other factors that may be considered include whether you maintained a U.S. mailing address, kept U.S. bank accounts and a valid U.S. driver’s license, own property or run a business in the U.S., or any other evidence that supports the temporary nature of your absence.

What if my trip will last longer than one year?
If you plan on being absent from the U.S. for longer than a year, it is advisable to first apply for a reentry permit (Form I-131). Obtaining a reentry permit prior to leaving the United States allows a permanent or conditional permanent resident to apply for admission into the U.S. during the permit’s validity without the need to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Please note that the reentry permit does not guarantee entry into the U.S. upon your return, as you must first be determined to be admissible. However, it will assist you in establishing your intention to permanently reside in the U.S.

If you remain outside of the U.S. for more than two years, any reentry permit granted before your departure from the U.S. will have expired. In this case, it is advisable to consider applying for a returning resident visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. An SB-1 applicant will be required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and will need a medical exam. There is an exception to this process for the spouse or child of either a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or civilian employee of the U.S. government stationed abroad on official orders.

Additionally, absences from the U.S. of six months or more may disrupt the continuous residency requirement for naturalization. If your absence is one year or longer and you wish to preserve your continuous residency for naturalization purposes, you may file an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes on Form N-470.

For more information on reentry permits, please visit our blog here.

If you are a lawful permanent resident and have questions on preserving your status or applying for a reentry permit, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!