green card

Three Tips to Avoid the Risks of Traveling Internationally With a U.S. Green Card

As a lawful permanent resident of the United States, your commitment to maintaining your immigration status is fairly simple. You need to update the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within ten days of moving and renew your green card every 10 years. International travel while having a green card can bring forth some challenges.

Permanent residents are free to travel overseas and short-term travel does not have any effect on their resident status. The term “resident” signifies that your status comes with expectations that you will establish yourself in the US. If you spend too much time outside of the US, there is a chance that you could lose your immigration status and it could be deemed abandoned by USCIS.

Before traveling outside the US, it is important to understand that there are certain risks. You must understand how your absence affects your immigration status and how to handle the risks that may emerge.

Stay Up to Date with Basic Green Card Maintenance

Lawful permanent residents may be denied re-entry to the US if they do not have valid, unexpired proof of their immigration status. When arriving at the port of entry a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will examine your green card and any other identity documents you present for example:

  • Passport
  • Foreign National Identification
  • Driver’s License

Unfortunately, hundreds of permanent residents forget or neglect to maintain their green cards. The most simple error someone can make is forgetting to renew their green card. Most green cards must be renewed every ten years.

Very few green cards do not expire. Because these cards were generally issued in the 1970s, older cards can contribute to another problem. Dated pictures or damaged cards can make the CBP agent's job more difficult. Note that re-entry is at the hands of the CBP Officer.

Should in any case you be allowed to re-enter the US with an expired green card (if the travel was less than one year), the agent may require that you pay a re-entry fee on top of the green card renewal fee. This can get very expensive and it can also create a major delay along with other legal problems.

Understand How Continuous Residence Works

Continuous residence simply means that a green card beneficiary has lived in the US and made it their home. As a permanent resident, you have the liberty to travel outside of the country. However, any extended stay longer than six months is more likely to disrupt your continuous residence requirement to become a US citizen. When filing a Form N400, Application for Naturalization you may be required to document your international travel from the previous five years. Any absence from the US that is six months or more can disqualify you from obtaining US citizenship. This means that your long-term absence can break your continuous residence.

Do Your Best to Avoid Abandonment of Permanent Resident Status

How do you avoid abandoning your lawful permanent residency? Well, first you can overcome any hint of abandonment of your immigration status by establishing that you:

  • Own a home or have a long-term lease in the US
  • Continue to maintain consistent employment with a US employer
  • File US income tax returns
  • Have family and community ties in the US or
  • Any other factors that helped establish your green card travel were temporary

If at any time you decide to take a trip abroad for a period of a minimum of one year but no more than two years, it is best advised that you obtain a re-entry permit. Additionally, to serve as a valid entry document after long absences, re-entry permits show proof that you have intentions of returning.

Can An Immigration Attorney Help Me?

Any green card holder aiming to travel outside of the US for long periods must always seek a lawyer for advice. Traveling always has its risks and you will always want to have an immigration law representative to be on your side before you exit the country. Gambacorta Law Office is always here to offer advice, and information on the risks of traveling while on a lawful permanent resident status and mediate should you get stuck at a port of entry. Give us a call today at 847 443 9303.