A lawful permanent resident (LPR) is a status given to an individual that permits them to remain in the United States indefinitely. They're also allowed to work and sponsor other members of their families to immigrate to the United States. While the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issues a green card to the individual for documentation purposes, the identification card does not guarantee reentry to the United States if the resident is traveling outside the United States.
When a permanent resident leaves the United States and wishes to return after an extended period of time, an immigration inspection officer may question whether their LPR status has been abandoned. For permanent residents to keep their LPR status, it is crucial to assess their immigration situation before visiting outside the United States.
How Long Can You Be Absent from the United States?
While no set rule states when an LPR status has been abandoned, the USCIS uses the “totality of the circumstances” to determine if the green card holder still intends to reside in the United States permanently. Leaving the country for some time doesn't automatically discount your status, but the USCIS will consider your absence, and they will determine your intentions by looking at the factors below:
- The length of your absence
- The reason you are traveling
- The location of your employment
- The location of your family
- If you have continued to file tax returns
- If you have a fixed date to return to the United States
- If you have maintained bank accounts, property, and a driver's license
There are many reasons why an individual would leave for an extended time. The absence will often be excused if they end on a specific date or if a particular event is taking place. Some common examples are:
- Around the world travel
- Temporarily residing abroad for work
- Taking care of a sick relative
- Travel to liquidate assets abroad
- Travel for a research project with a clear goal
Traveling outside the United States for less than six months is not considered a problem or a threat to your lawful permanent residence. Staying outside the country for longer than six months and closer to a year can cause you issues. If you know you'll be outside the country for an extended period, documentation and records showing your intent to return are critical for maintaining your LPR status.
Note, however, that there is a rebuttable presumption that you didn't abandon status if you were outside the United States for six to 11 months if you can prove sufficient ties mainlined to the U.S. during that time. However, if you are out of the U.S. for more than one year, the U.S. may revoke your Green Card based on extended absence.
What Is a Reentry Permit and Should You Apply for One?
Those with lawful permanent residence status who know they'll be leaving the country for a certain period should file for a reentry permit. This document establishes that you don't intend to abandon your permanent residence status. A reentry permit is often valid for two years from the date issued and will allow you to apply for admission to the U.S. without having to obtain a returning resident visa.
When you apply for a reentry permit, the document can work as evidence that you're returning to the country and can help if you are asked about your intentions by an immigration inspection officer. You'll need to file an I-131 for reentry while you're still physically present in the United States, and you should file your form at least 60 days before your departure.
Keeping Lawful Permanent Residence for Naturalization
If you're looking to qualify as a naturalized citizen of the United States, you'll need to fulfill some requirements, including your residence and physical presence in the United States. A major part of the naturalization criteria is to continuously reside in the United States for five years after attaining lawful permanent residence. If you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you'll only need to stay for three consecutive years. You also must be physically present in the United States for at least half of that period to qualify for naturalization.
Unless you can give a reasonable explanation as to why you left the country for a year or more, you may be considered breaking your residence period's continuity. A break is considered serious and can cause your naturalization process to restart, beginning at the time you'll need to stay in the country.
Trust Motivated Immigration Lawyers in Washington Today
Many who immigrate to the United States seek to receive the status of a lawful permanent resident. However, staying inside the country when your job or an unavoidable event takes place can be frustrating and stressful. While you may not intend to jeopardize your status, the immigration process can be complicated and confusing to those unfamiliar with the laws and processes.
Our team at Orbit Law has years of experience assisting international and local clients with legal immigration services. We are motivated to help clients maintain their permanent residence status and stay on track for their naturalization. Our services are offered in English, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Spanish, and Urdu, so our clients can feel comfortable asking questions and communicating with us.
Call (206) 623-3352 or fill out our contact form for more information about our services.