Thursday, June 18, 2009

I have a green card, can I live outside the US for a few years?

People with permanent residence (green cards) often inquire as to whether they can live outside the US and still maintain their permanent residence (PR). Many people believe that if the green card holder returns to the US at least once every 12 months, there will be no risk of losing permanent residence. Immigration regulations do state that if a PR is outside the US for one continuous year, there is a presumption that PR has been abandoned. However, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) can decide that a person has abandoned PR after they have been gone for less than a year. The key is whether the person intended the stay abroad to be temporary, not the length of time outside the US.

If you want to live outside the US for 6 months or more, it is critical that you can show your intention to return to the US. This intent can be shown by as many of the following as possible:

1. Continuing to file US tax returns;

2. Keeping a house or other residence here;

3. Putting furniture and other belongings in storage rather than selling them;

4. Having some immediate family members staying in the US;

5. Definite plans to return to a job or studies in the US;

6. Maintaining memberships in clubs, church groups, etc in the US.

We recommend getting a reentry permit if you will be on an extended stay outside the US of 6 months or longer. A reentry permit allows a permanent resident or conditional resident to apply for admission to the US upon returning from abroad during the permit’s validity, without having to obtain a returning resident visa from the U.S. Embassy or consulate. A reentry permit does not guarantee admission into the United States. Aliens with reentry permits are still subject to inspection at the port of entry and may be denied admission if they are inadmissible.

Reentry permits are generally valid for 2 years from the date the reentry permit was issued. A 2nd reentry permit might be approved for another 2 years, and therafter they are approved for one year at a time. You should apply for this benefit before leaving the United States. Ideally, you will file at least a few months before you leave, to allow time for the biometrics appointment to be scheduled before you travel.

For more information, please see these prior blog posts:

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