Travel Outside the United States as a Green Card Holder
As a Green Card holder, you will be allowed to travel around the United States with some restrictions. Though you can travel outside the United States, you may not be allowed to stay outside the country for more than two years. You will be required to obtain a re-entry permit or a returning resident visa in order to re-enter the United States, if you wish to travel abroad for a year or more. As a permanent resident, you may not be granted a US passport but you must provide the passport from the country of citizenship while you travel to a foreign country from the United States. Make sure that you always have a valid Green Card, as this document is mandatory to establish your legal status in the United States.
While you return to the United States and while you arrive at a US port of entry, you must present a valid Green Card. Your permanent resident card along with other documents such as your passport and US driver’s license will be reviewed by a US Customs and Border Protection Officer. It is only after that you will be granted permission to enter the country. At times a lengthy travel outside the United States may affect your lawful status in America.
As the permanent residents are allowed to travel outside the United States, a short and a temporary travel will not adversely affect your status in the United States. You may face problems only if you are found to have abandoned your status in the United States. The immigration officers will determine that you had abandoned your status, if you leave the United States for more than a year. Certain things such as your US mailing address, US bank account may be considered while determining whether you have abandoned your status.
The United States allows the permanent residents to travel abroad for more than a year. If you plan to travel abroad and if you understand that your trip will not be short, you may file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to get a re-entry permit. With a re-entry permit, you may be granted permission to re-enter the United States, even if you had resided outside the United States for more than a year. You may be allowed to enter the United States during the validity of this permit and you may not be required to obtain a returning resident visa from a US Embassy of Consulate abroad.
Being a Green Card holder, if you had stayed outside the United States for more than two years and if your re-entry permit is no longer valid, you must get a returning resident visa from an overseas US Consulate or Embassy. While traveling outside the United States, you must remember that if you leave the United States for six months or more, you may not be able to satisfy the continuous residence requirement, while you apply for naturalization. Yet, you have an option to preserve your continuous residency by filing Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes, while you travel abroad for more than a year.