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By: Katherine On: December 8, 2016 In: Immigration, Maintaining Status Comments: 13
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Green card holders are permitted to travel internationally, but United States Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps an eye on how long permanent residents are out of the country — and these regulations have become stricter.

Green card holders cannot travel outside of the US for more than one year without a reentry permit.

What are the penalties for spending too much time outside of the US, and how can green card holders travel with more security?

Green Card Holder Travel Documents

Green card holders generally need a passport from their country of citizenship or a refugee travel document in order to travel to another country. If the country you are traveling to speaks a language which is not on your passport, getting a passport translation may be a good idea.

Foreign counties may also have additional requirements, such as a visa.

Green Card Holders: Establishing Continuous Physical Presence

Green card holders are required to “establish continuous physical presence” in order to maintain legal status.

Continuous physical presence is established by showing that there was no intent to abandon the green card and that the lawful permanent resident has maintained his or her ties in the US.

Green card holders can prove US ties through documents showing that they own a home or rent an apartment, or through financial and legal documents such as bank account statements and tax returns. However, it becomes far more difficult to prove US ties when the green card holder has been traveling abroad for more than one year.

Voluntary Departure & Starting Over

When a green card holder’s absence exceeds one year, he or she may be placed in removal proceedings. Once in removal proceedings, most people will have the option of requesting voluntary departure.

Voluntary departure allows the green card holder to give up his or her green card and any current applications that USCIS may be processing. Then the green card holder is free to go back to his or her home country.

If the request for voluntary departure is granted, then the process for a green card starts anew. For many, this is the best option, as there are no restrictions as to how soon one can reapply for a new green card after they voluntarily depart.

However, if voluntary departure is selected, the green card holder forfeits the right to present a defense to removal, such as asylum, withholding of removal, cancellation of removal, a petition through a family member or any other motions.

It is also very important when voluntary departure is granted that the green card holder leaves the United States on the specified date, otherwise a ban on reentering the United States may take effect. It could be up to 10 years before he or she can return.

Green Card Holder Travel Precautions

Green card holders can take precautions if they plan to travel outside of the United States for an extended period of time.

The primary and most effective way to be outside the United States for more than one year is obtaining a reentry permit.

A reentry permit can be issued by filling out Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. When granted, this document allows green card holders to be out of the country for up to two years without disrupting their continuous physical presence requirement.

Be aware that a reentry permit is different from an advance parole document (also applied for by filling out Form I-131), which merely lets you travel for a short period of time while your green card is pending.

Green Card Holder Travel May Affect Naturalization

Green card holders who wish to travel and one day apply for citizenship need to take an extra step.

According to USCIS, “absences from the United States of six months or more may disrupt the continuous residency required for naturalization.”

If you are traveling but would like to upkeep your permanent residency for naturalization purposes, you should file Form N-470, an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

Many green card holders who exceed a one-year travel period without proper documentation are being placed in removal proceedings for failure to maintain continuous physical presence inside the United States.

The possibility of losing a green card due to travel is real. Green card holders who plan to travel must take preventative steps to ensure they’re aware of what steps to take to prevent problems upon their return to the US.

Note: This page is for general informational purposes only. LLS cannot give personal advice to any individual regarding immigration status. Please contact USCIS with any questions.

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    • Allen Noble
    • June 04, 2017
    • Reply

    I am a Canadian citizen with a permanent green card living in the United States. What do I need in the way of documentation to travel to Canada for a funeral?

      • Kim Corona
      • July 19, 2017
      • Reply

      did you find out whether you need to get a re-entry permit or not?

  • I am a green card holder, not a us citizen yet. Can i get married in the Philippines?

    • Jeverlyn
    • July 20, 2017
    • Reply

    I apply for removal contion for my green card, and it takes long time to be process to have a 10 years green card I’m planning to visit my kids in the philippines can I go to visit them with my expires green card will I’m still in the process?

    • Alfred hallaby
    • September 06, 2017
    • Reply

    I am a australia citizen And have an amarican green card / permanent resident ,
    Want to go to Germeny for a 7 days holiday this month ( September 2017 )
    Do I need a visa.

    • Agatha
    • October 14, 2017
    • Reply

    Can I visit internationally for a month after being a green card holder for a year.. Will it affect my citizenship?

    • genova88
    • October 20, 2017
    • Reply

    Im a Green Card Holder I travel outside US 2 to 3 times but I only stayed for a week or two will this affect my qualification for citizenship?

      • Neil in Michigan
      • February 02, 2018
      • Reply

      Let me know what answers you have found. My wife will be coming to th U.S. soon. How soon did you travel after you got your Green Card?

    • Elma B. roque
    • November 03, 2017
    • Reply

    I am a green card holder of United State of America..I stay in the Phillipines for more than 1 year…How can go back to US…Pls help

    • November 14, 2017
    • Reply

    Aurora F. Pascual Nov. 14,2017
    I am a green card holder of United State of America . I stay in the Philippines for 5 years. How can I go back to United States. Please help.

    • Gerardo
    • January 13, 2018
    • Reply

    I am green card holder and im planning to go home and get married in the philippines, will i have a problem going back to US??

      • Neil in Michigan
      • February 02, 2018
      • Reply

      Please let me know what you learn from any informative reply. My wife is coming to the U.S. soon and she wants to know how soon she can travel after getting her Green Card.

      • Glen
      • April 11, 2018
      • Reply

      I am also a green card holder of U.S. and planning to go to the philippines in June for 3 weeks to get married but my passport is expiring August 2018. Consular office in SF have conflicting answers via fb messenger. I consulted eva air travel docs and they said I’m good since my passport is not expired and I have greencard to fly back. This 6 months validity for passport does not apply right?

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