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Travelling Outside the U.S. as a Green Card Holder

By March 25, 2021April 23rd, 2021Immigration
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Once you receive your green card, you should keep in mind that there are some actions that can constitute an abandonment of your green card. If you plan to get a U.S. green card and then live predominantly in some other country/move permanently to another country and just visit the U.S. for couple times a year, then a green card may not be the best option for you.

The government will deem the following actions as abandonment of your green card:

  • If you move to another country and you intend to live there permanently;
  • If you declare yourself a non-immigrant on US tax returns;
  • If you spend an extended period of time outside the U.S. (unless your stay is temporary, see more information on what stay is temporary below).

Please note that one common thing for all the above actions is that the green card may not necessarily realize that a particular action constitutes an abandonment. You can also voluntarily explicitly give up your green card by filing from I-407.

So how much time can I spend outside the U.S. as a green card holder?

  1. You want to spend more than a year outside the U.S.:

In this case, you should apply for a Re-entry permit before you leave the U.S. The fact that you were issued a Reentry permit means that you should not be deemed to have abandoned your green card solely on the duration of an absence abroad while the reentry permit was valid. However, the Reentry permit does not guarantee an entry into the U.S. and the officer will still consider several factors. Please read our blog post on re-entry permits .

  1. If you plan to spend less than a year outside the U.S.

Please note that as long as you can demonstrate that your trip outside the U.S. was temporary, the international trip should not have any effect on your green card and should not constitute an abandonment of your green card. The officer at the border will make a determination on whether he/she thinks that you have abandoned your green card every time you enter the U.S. on your green card.

Short trips are usually not issue at all for your green card status. The problem arises if you have spent several months outside the U.S. (e.g. 9 months), or if you took several trips that were all couple months long (e.g. you were outside the U.S. for 5 months, then you spend 4 weeks in the U.S., and then you again left for 6 months).

In this case, you will have to demonstrate to the officer that you have always intended to make the U.S. your permanent home. When looking at whether you have abandoned your green card, the officer will look at factors such as:

  • What was your intention when leaving the U.S.? Did you intend for your trip to be temporary?
  • What was the reason for your trip (business, family, travel)
  • Did any events prolong your absence (you only intended to travel for couple days, but due to medical emergency you stayed for several months)
  • While you were away, did you still have family in the U.S.?
  • While you were away, did you keep community ties (e.g. memberships in organizations, associations, etc.)
  • Did you keep working for a U.S. employer or are you employed abroad?
  • Did you file U.S. taxes as a green card holder?
  • Did you keep paying for your lease?
  • Did you keep paying for a mortgage?
  • Do you own a property in the U.S.?
  • Did you keep a U.S. mailing address?
  • Do you have U.S. bank accounts?
  • Do you have a valid U.S. driver’s license?
  • Do you have a business in the U.S.?

Please note if you are planning to file a naturalization application, you will also have to demonstrate that you meet the Continuous residence and physical presence. If you were outside the U.S. for 6 continuous months or more, than you will have to rebut the presumption that you broke the continuous residence. Please see our blog post on the Naturalization requirements here.

Please click here to read our blog post on how to maintain your green card.

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