International Travel

Traveling with a green card

Every non-US citizen is subject to immigration review when entering the US. Even if the person is currently a green card holder, he can be subject to review and denied entry to the country by an immigration official. Temporary travel of a green card holder does not affect his permanent resident status. However, if it is determined that the green card holder does not intend to make the US his permanent home, he will be found to have abandoned his status. Generally, if the person has been out of the US for 1 year or more, it will be determined that he abandoned his permanent resident status. However, if the green card holder knows that he will be outside the U.S. for one year or more and does not want to abandon his permanent resident status, he can apply for a reentry permit. The application should be done on Form I-131, and the permit should be approved before the green card holder leaves the country. This permit serves as proof that the green card holder wants to maintain his U.S. permanent resident status, but does not guarantee his entrance to the country.


Even if the green card holder has been out of the country for less than 1 year, immigration officials have discretion to determine if he does not intend to make the US his permanent home. In doing so, officials evaluate certain factors that establish such intention: employment in the U.S., filing of U.S. income tax, family ties, among others.


Additionally, absences from the United States of six months or more may disrupt the continuous residency required for naturalization.  If a green card holder’s absence is one year or longer and he wishes to preserve his continuous residency in the United States for naturalization purposes, he may file an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes on Form N-470.


Traveling with an expired green card

If a lawful permanent resident has an expired green card, it does not mean that he will lose his U.S. permanent resident status. However, if the person travels outside the U.S. with an expired green card, he might encounter some trouble when being admitted back into the country. In order to prevent this, the expired green card holder may use his foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp. This stamp serves as temporary proof that the person is a permanent U.S. resident.


Traveling with a pending green card application

A person with a pending green card application should be aware that traveling outside the U.S might have severe consequences in his application process. In general, if a person is changing his immigration status in the U.S., he should not leave the country until the USCIS approves such change. If the person does not wait for the approval before leaving the country, the application will be considered abandoned. However, there is an exception if the person filed an I-485 and the application is pending. If the applicant has an emergency and must leave the country, he can file an advance parole (form I-131) and wait until approval before traveling outside the U.S. If the applicant fails to do so, his application will be immediately denied. The advance parole will serve as an authorization to re-enter the U.S. However, the advance parole does not guarantee that immigration officials will admit the person into the U.S.


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