As a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) or green card holder as it is commonly known, you are allowed to undertake temporary travel outside the country. However, as the duration of the stay and the number of visits overseas start increasing, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may start questioning your intent every time you return to the United States. Longer trips may affect your permanent resident status as described in this article.

Rebuttable presumption of abandonment

In general, trips of less than six months invite less scrutiny but trips of one year or more can create issues for a green card holder and may even affect permanent resident status.

The intent of an LPR is gauged on the presumption that she/he intended to make United States a permanent residence.

As the duration of the trip increases, however, CBP may question the intent of the LPR and look for criteria such as whether the intent of the trip was temporary, whether family and community ties exist in the US, whether US employment was maintained, whether taxes were filed, etc. For absences of over a year, CBP may apply a rebuttable presumption that the LPR abandoned her/his permanent resident status. Despite the rebuttable presumption, however, only an immigration judge can terminate an individual’s LPR status.

What should one do if travel outside the United States will be over a year

If a longer trip is absolutely unavoidable, USCIS advises to apply for a reentry permit prior to leaving the United States. If approved, such a reentry permit allows (but does not guarantee) a permanent resident to apply for admission to the United States (as long as the permit is valid) without having to apply for a returning resident visa from a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Normally, the reentry permit can be approved for up to two years.

Absences of over six months may impact naturalization requirements

Absences of over six months may disrupt continuous residency requirements for naturalization. Green card holders should also be aware that continuous residency is an important factor in the naturalization process and absences of six months or more may disrupt the continuous residency requirement. You may want to discuss with an immigration attorney if it is possible to preserve your continuous residency for naturalization purposes despite the absence.

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