US Immigration News

US Re-Entry Risks Traveling as a Permanent Resident

4 minute read
"As a Green Card holder (Permanent Resident) in the United States, you will be required to maintain your immigration status to remain in the country legally. This requires you to obey certain simple obligations. For example, informing the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) of any change in your address within 10 days of moving by filing Form AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card, and renewing your Green Card with Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, every 10 years."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jul 6, 2021
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As a Green Card holder (Permanent Resident) in the United States, you will be required to maintain your immigration status to remain in the country legally. This requires you to obey certain simple obligations. For example, informing the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) of any changes in your address within 10 days of moving by filing Form AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card, and renewing your Green Card with Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, every 10 years. 

Traveling as a lawful permanent resident can mean a whole new form of trouble if you do not meet such obligations. As a Green Card holder, you are authorized to travel freely outside the US for temporary periods without affecting your permanent residence status. However, as a permanent resident of the US, it is expected that you will be physically present in the country. Therefore, taking long trips abroad can threaten your status as a permanent resident. 

What Do You Need to Understand Before Traveling Abroad as a US Permanent Resident?

Basic Maintenance: 

Every year, hundreds of permanent residents are denied entry to the United States for various reasons. To reenter the country, you will require a valid, unexpired Green Card. Your Green Card and identity documents are reviewed by a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official at the Port of Entry. It is very common for permanent residents to be forgetful when maintaining their Green Card by forgetting to renew it before traveling. 

Green Cards are required to be renewed every 10 years before they expire. Permanent residents are generally required to apply for at least 10-12 months before renewing their Green Card. Having distorted or damaged cards can also cause a problem with the CBP officials. It is your responsibility to maintain your Green Card in a way that is legible and readable. It is possible to reenter the country with an expired Green Card, however, you are required to pay a re-entry fee on top of the Green Card renewal fee. This can be very expensive. 

On top of that, this can significantly delay the process and cause other legal problems for you. Therefore it is best to renew your Green Card before leaving the country by filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.

Understand Continuous Residence: 

Taking trips abroad for longer than 6 months will affect your period of continuous residence if you plan to apply for US citizenship through the Naturalization process. To apply for naturalization, you are required to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. 

You are also required to document your international travel by submitting your Green Card in the last 5 years. If you are absent from the country for more than 1 year, then your continuous residence will be disrupted making you ineligible for naturalization.

Abandonment of Permanent Residence Status: 

Staying abroad for more than 1 year not only disrupts your continuous residence but also risks abandonment of your permanent residence status. Reentering the country after lengthy trips abroad will result in sitting for an interview with a CBP official.

The official will determine your intention of actually staying as a resident in the US. Any indication of false intention may lead to the abandonment of your status as a permanent resident. The following factors may help the CBP official demonstrate your intention of remaining a resident of the US:

  • Owning a home or having a long-term house lease in the US
  • Current employment in the US
  • Filing US income tax returns
  • Having strong family and community ties to the US
  • Any other factor to demonstrate that the travel abroad was temporary

If you are planning to take a trip abroad that will likely last for more than 1 year, then it is advised to apply for a reentry permit beforehand to avoid such problems. A reentry permit will ensure hassle-free reentry and also serve as evidence of your intent to return. You can apply for the reentry permit by submitting Form I-131, Application for Reentry Permit.

Lost or Stolen Green Card: 

If you have somehow lost your Green Card or it has been stolen, then you will require a special document to catch a flight to the US and reenter the country. You must submit Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document, to the nearest US Consulate or Embassy. This will help you replace your stolen or lost Green Card on return by filing Form I-90.

Apply for US Citizenship: 

The best way to avoid all this hassle regarding travel abroad is to simply apply for US citizenship and obtain a US passport. That way, you wouldn’t have to worry about reentry or losing your citizenship due to extended travel abroad. Applying for naturalization is less expensive than maintaining your Green Card in the long term.

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