There are many benefits to having a Green Card and living in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). One of the most noticeable benefits is having the ability to travel to and from the U.S. without needing to apply for a visa to return to the U.S. There are many reasons why a person may need to travel outside of the U.S. such as to visit family members, go to school, or conduct business overseas. If you have a Green Card, it is important you understand a few of the limitations of a Green Card before traveling outside of the U.S. and to be aware of a legal remedy to help avoid the complications that may arise.
If you have a Green Card, your are limited to traveling outside of the United States to less than one year. Your absence of more than one year may render your Green Card invalid. Another limitation arises when you take residence, or live in another country, even if for a period of less than one year. You may be considered to have abandoned your Green Card. If your Green Card becomes invalid while you are abroad, you will have to reapply for another Green Card. Additionally, you may have to go to immigration court where a judge will determine whether or not you have abandoned your green card. So what is the remedy if you plan to temporarily live in another country or remain outside the United States for one year or more? A reentry permit
A reentry permit is a permit that demonstrates that you did not intend to relinquish or abandon your green card. A reentry permit is valid for up to two years. This will allow you to travel outside the US for up to two years without having to obtain a visa to reenter the country as a resident, and without the threat of losing your green card. The re-entry permit alone does not prevent abandonment of residence in the United States. You still need to take steps to preserve your intent to keep your greencard and show that your travel is indeed temporary.
So when should you get a reentry permit? If you plan to travel outside the United States for a year or more or anticipate having to temporarily live in another country, even if it is for less than a year. You may also want to obtain a reentry permit if your home country requires you to obtain a passport before visiting that country. You may not want to, or may not be able to obtain a passport for that country. Many countries allow the use of a U.S. reentry permit as a travel document as a substitute for a passport.
To apply for a reentry permit, you will have to fill out Form I-131. You must be physically present in the U.S. when you fill out Form I-131 and fingerprints are completed. Though you can leave the country after Form I-131 is pending, it is strongly recommended you stay in the U.S. until the reentry permit is granted in case complications with the application arise that require you to return to the U.S.
You must be aware that reentry permits expire. After your reentry permit expires, you must apply for another reentry permit. Finally, you must be aware that a reentry permit does not serve as substitute for your green card. Rather, the reentry permit must be used in addition to your Green Card.
Abandonment of your Green Card can have disastrous consequences. It may require you to go through the entire Green Card application process all over again or land you in immigration court. If you think your Green Card has become invalid speak to an immigration attorney immediately. Contact our office for a consultation with one of our Tulsa immigration lawyers at (918) 582-9LAW (9529) or toll-free at 866-209-1868.