How Long Can a Green Card Holder Stay Out of the Country?

One of the most powerful benefits of citizenship is permanent protection against deportation. Generally, the only way you can lose your citizenship and become deported is if USCIS discovers that you obtained citizenship through fraud.

If you are a green card holder, however, you must take certain steps to protect your status. Your green card allows you to live and work permanently in the U.S.—unless you become inadmissible for one or more reasons.

One common way to lose your green card is one that takes many people by surprise: extended travel abroad. Most people understand that committing a serious crime in the U.S. may result in deportation, but you can be a law-abiding citizen and still lose your green card if the U.S. government believes you have “abandoned your residence” by spending too much time outside of the country.

Unfortunately, “abandoning your residence” is not a cut-and-dry concept. USCIS will consider several factors before determining whether you can continue to live in the U.S. as a permanent resident. Let’s take a look at some of those factors.

Length of Time Spent Outside the U.S.

According to USCIS, your green card will become invalid if you leave the U.S. for a year or longer. However, legal professionals and immigrant advocates generally discourage permanent residents from leaving the U.S. for more than six months. The U.S. government may nullify your status if it appears as though you took up residence in another country, even if you made sure to return to the U.S. within the year.

If, however, you obtained a reentry permit before leaving the U.S., you can safely leave the U.S. for up to two years. The permit establishes that you have no intention of abandoning your residence. To apply for a reentry permit, file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.

Family and Community Ties in the U.S.

Do you have a family in the U.S.? Are your kids enrolled in school, and does your spouse have a job near your place of residence in the U.S.? Are you a member of community organizations or programs? These ties can help demonstrate your intention to maintain your permanent residence.

Financial Ties in the U.S.

U.S. employment, business interests, investments, and tax returns filed with the IRS are examples of strong financial ties. The more of these ties you maintain, the less likely USCIS will be to conclude that you have abandoned your residence.

The Purpose of Your Trip

If you moved back in with a family member abroad, got a new job, and opened a foreign bank account, you will likely appear to have abandoned your U.S. residence. However, if your foreign family member became seriously ill, USCIS may conclude that the purpose of your trip was to take care of them instead of to leave the U.S. permanently.

What to Do if You Appear to Have Abandoned Your Residence

If you seek entry into the United States after extended travel abroad, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will likely allow you to enter with a valid green card. However, the government may later initiate a removal proceeding, and deportation will have serious, long-term consequences.

Whether you are considering traveling abroad, you are currently abroad and concerned about returning to the U.S., or facing a removal proceeding or related legal issues, let our team at Gambacorta Law handle your case. We can advise you on the best course of action and provide skillful advocacy in a court of law. If your goal is to live and work permanently in the U.S., we can help you protect your status and fight for your rights as a permanent resident.

Call (847) 443-9303 or contact us online today. We offer services in Tagalog, Thai, Spanish, and Vietnamese.