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How long can I stay outside the US without losing my green card?

| Jul 31, 2014 | Common Immigration Questions and Problems

One of the most often asked questions that we run across is how long can a permanent resident stay outside the United States without losing his/her green card? This is a very complicated question that is circumstance specific. Permanent residents considering travel outside the US for extended periods of time need to sit down with an immigration attorney to review past travel history as well as any prospective future trips. The length as well as the purpose of any long trips outside need to be explored and in some cases, documented. There are some general principles, however, that one ought to be aware of.

The issue is not the length of the trip per se, but whether the individual has abandoned his/her permanent residence.

In practical terms, an individual who travels outside the US for more than one year without having applied for a re-entry permit is in serious jeopardy of losing his/her permanent residence. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will pretty much presume that you have abandoned your green card if you stay outside for a continuous period of one year or more. If you anticipate having to travel abroad for more than a year, you should strongly consider applying for a reentry permit. The re-entry permit can be applied for on Form I-131 and if granted, will authorize the holder to stay outside for up to two years without being deemed to have abandoned permanent residence. The thing to remember about re-entry permits is that the applicant must stay in the US to be fingerprinted prior to leaving. If the individual leaves without having been fingerprinted, the I-131 will likely be denied.

Generally speaking, an individual will substantially reduce exposure to any allegation of abandonment by limiting any trips outside to less than six months. Trips less than 180 days do not trigger as much scrutiny as trips over that mark. Nevertheless, limiting several trips to under 180 days is not a full-proof strategy to avoid allegations of abandonment. If an individual’s travel history reveals several trips of less than 180 days but which are cumulatively substantial, he/she may still be accused of abandonment. In other words, if the person spends more time outside than inside the US, even if any single trip is less than 180 days, he/she is still not immune.

Important considerations: proving ties to the US

Anybody charged with abandoning permanent residence may be denied entry or put into removal proceedings unless he/she can convince the Department of Homeland Security that the trip or trips were temporary in nature and that the United States has been the person’s domicile. The presence or absence of the following could significantly influence an officer’s decision:

· Banks statements

· Filing of tax returns

· Lease/mortgage

· Presence of family members here in the US

· Employment abroad

· Ownership of assets

The more ties the person has to the US, the less likely an officer may conclude that permanent residence has been abandoned. Conversely, the less ties or attachments there are, the greater the probability the officer will lean the other way towards abandonment.

We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the “Subscribe To This Blog’s Feed” button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the “Case Evaluation” box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.

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