Green Card Holders: Beware of Travel Restrictions

By Katherine at Legal Language
Posted on 01/14/2011
In Immigration, Maintaining Status

green card travelGreen 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. Our full disclaimer can be read here.

140 Responses to “Green Card Holders: Beware of Travel Restrictions”

  1. JOHN Says:

    hi im staying here at U.S for 6 months already and recently got my green card but i have a job offer at dubai, uae, can i apply for re-entry permit? will there be a problem for my green card because the uae is issuing resident visa only that considers as their working visa? im still planning to go back to u.s after my contract which is 1 year. thank you

  2. Larry Says:

    I have been married to a lady from China for 8 years she has her green card US drivers license SS card etc. We also have a bank account in both names in US now my question is I have been working in Malaysia for 16 months & she has been here with me how much trouble will she have when we return to US next month.

  3. nga tran Says:

    hi everyone
    i am green card holder,and my sister she will getting marry the end of next month on june in Vietnam ,so i decide to attend at her wedding .
    my question is :do i need fill out any form before i leave USA? i plan to stay there about one month?

  4. Singh G Says:

    Dear sir,
    I got my green card 2month back, can I travel for 2months to Africa and india??? And do I have to provide the returen ticket at bording time or I can get while I’m coming back’ because returen date I’m not so sure that’s why.
    Please advice me

  5. Kenneth R. Steinocher Says:

    My wife’s passport has expired. She is a citizen of Germany. She has lived and worked in the US since 1960. Can she travel to and from Canada on her green card or does she also need a passport?

  6. Nora Says:

    Hi, I am legal pernament resident and have my green card, I need to travel to Evrope with my husband by military order for 4 years , he is army active duty, but my origin pasport from my citizenship country has been expired and my consulate cant renew it, what should I do in order to be able to travel the world and come back to US
    Thank you in advance

  7. Jaime Rivas Says:

    good day;

    I would like yo know if US permanent Residents with a passport that espires few days after his/her entry back in the U.S.A will be permited? if not what he or she will need to do in order to re-entry the US? In cases where permanet residents have dead in the family an need to travel urgent to theirs countries with a passport as mentioned before that expires few days after their entry to the US, will they be allow to re-enter the US?

  8. raul Says:

    My green card expires this month on 24 I want to travel to mexico next month for 3 days need advice.

  9. Marcelo Says:

    Hi what happens when a green card holder wants to go abroad to go to school? how can I stay longer than a year abroad?

  10. Juan Says:

    My sister is in Aruba on vacation. She lost her residence card and needs to return tomorrow. What can she do?

  11. Jocelyn Turner Says:

    Do i need a visa to travel to north london?i am a green card holder

  12. Ron Says:

    Good day sir my mother is a green card holder and a resident of USA for more than 5 years, she was petitioned by my sister who worked in USA for more than 20 years. My mother now is here in Philippines for vacation and have a problem with her passport. Her Passport is expired and need to renew but the release of her passport will affect her staying here. We just renewed her passport last month and the release of her passport is on November 3, 2014. My Mother came here last may 4, 2014 and her departure going back to USA is on November 4, 2014, We noticed that this will affect her green card and now we need to re schedule the departure of our mother within the end of the month but we don’t have her passport yet.

    Is there anyway that my mother can go back to united states without her passport? or we can avail a special travel document from U.S. Embassy?? Can she go back to USA even if stay here for more than 6 months? Thank you i hope you can answer my questions

  13. Hung Suan Says:

    I came to United States as a refugee about six years ago. I have green card for five years now. If I would like to travel outside of United States, what kind of document will I need. I am confused about reentry permit and Refugee Travel Document from I-131. Which one should I choose?

  14. Phillip louie demavivas Says:

    Hello everyone!
    I got my green card march 2005
    I stayed in the philippines June 2007-January 2008
    Then came back to U.S and went back to Philippines again
    July 2009-June 2011 then back to U.S again
    Then my last trip was Dec 2012- Dec 2014

    I want to preserved my Permanent resident for Naturalization
    Am i allowed to file Form N470?


  15. kareema Says:

    lam fron iraqi finished 5 years and my citizenship interview test was pending due to background check since may 2014 ,lcalled and made infoopass they keep telling me to mait ,l have no bad recored at all ,is that normal ? how long l have to wait l applied on 01/29/201 nothing change .please l need some advice .Thank you

  16. emma Says:

    I’m a U.s green card holder. Is it possible to take a vacation in the Philippines for 2 months as I am a Filipino citizen ???
    Thank you in Advance.

  17. chinny perez Says:

    my green card was lost but I already renew my green card and I am planning to go in the Philippines for one month and I don’t have my green card yet not until 6 to 9 months but im already booked what should I do do?

  18. Rahmatullah Hossein Says:

    My wife and I are green-card holders…Our baby is 1 month old. How long should we wait before we can travel outside US? Are there any restrictions???

  19. erwin Says:

    i have a question, hopefully someone can answer this, this applies for my mom, she is a greencard holder and she decided to go back in the philippines for years now, she did not file anything? what can we do to gain back her residency status? so she can easily go back to the US.

  20. Matthew Says:

    What if I was born in the UK, but moved to America at 6 months old, staying there for 21 years and then returning to the UK.
    Have been living back in the uK for the past 4 years, but I have a British passport and my green card is still valid. Can I get back to the US just for a holiday? Do I need to do anything?

  21. Henry Says:

    Hi, I am a green card holder, and I applied for a F2 pettition for my wife. Now it has been a long time and yet no updates from NVC. I am now interested into obtaining my US citizenship, but I am also concerned that it may impact my wife. Except I do not know how this will impact my wifes existing pettition. In example, will my wife lose her place in the F2 category to obtain a new position in line as F1 category? how does this work for the instance above? Please help, Thanks!

  22. Zouhar Says:

    Hi , my question is
    What could happens at the airport if you travel to usa just whit green card whiout reentry permit after spendind m 14 mounths overseas
    Thank you

  23. john Says:

    I have expired 2 years green card. I got my green card thru my step father but we cannot go along with each other so i decided to go back in my country but it’s less than a year and i want to go back in the US but i dont have my green card with me i only have my passport with green card visa on it and i know that they file to remove the condition before but i’m unable to check the status. Please advise email me ln my email i do really need help. Thank you and God bless

  24. Yanet Munoz Says:

    My mother has a green card. We are planning to travel to Mexico for a week..Do I need a re-entry for my mom?

    Please let me know.

  25. Joy Says:

    Hi i am a filipino with a green card holder and wants to go to taiwan for 2 weeks vacations and come back here in US,do i need to get a visa to enter taiwan?

  26. Gabriel Resuena Says:

    I left The US due to educational reason. Can i still go back to America even if I was gone for a very long time? A reply would be much appreciated. And my greencard would expire in June this year. Thank you. Have a good day!

  27. ale Says:

    Hello, I hold a Green Card without an expiration date being it was issued in 1980. I have never left the USA for more than a few days, to Mexico and a month once to Australia ten years ago. Now I have come to Germany and I have been here for 7 months. I do ministry work and plan to travel to the middle east, etc for a few years, but now i found out I have to fill out a I-131 form. Can I fill this out in an embassy or consulate being I am overseas already? I was born in the UK and hold a UK passport as well. Do I have to come back to the USA before the 1 year mark and apply for the I-131 in country? Why not make it available for someone to do this at an embassy or consulate for an extra fee?

    Please do let me know and if you can email me the answer that would be great, if not i will check back here. Thank you again.

  28. David Says:


    I renewed my greencard two months ago, and waiting for getting it. However, if i change my mind to get citizenship, what should i do? because i am planning to work outside country.


  29. Sana Says:

    I m green card holder and due to some reason i stay my country more then one year and i dont have re- entry permit, Now i want to go back to USA . How can i go back plz guide me ?

  30. kawde dela puwpo Says:

    book a ticket, go to the airport, and fly back here, so simple

  31. kawde dela puwpo Says:

    serously, you have to go to a expert immigration lawyer,explain everything and he do the rest

  32. Hakim Says:

    I’m leaving the country for good and I’m a GC holder and I worked in the U.S. For almost 16years. Do I lose my retirement?

  33. lynn Says:

    My 17 year old cousin is currently holder of green card. He wants to go home to his previous country and study and comeback here every 6 months. So I’m just wondering if there any certain rules about my cousin, who is minor, who will travel with me and my mom only. Please help. Thank you!!

  34. Racquel Manalo Says:

    I am a green card holder and want to petition my parents. How long will the process take?

  35. CHRISTIAN Says:


  36. minnie Says:

    im a permanent resident of the US. But i never renewed my GC it expired 2 yrs ago can i still travel to\
    Puerto Rico with my ID? its still the US.

  37. Reni Goodisman Says:

    Im Greencard holder that will expired in October 25 this year, and have to renewal 3 months before October. But also im planing to go to Indonesia for about 3 weeks in august, why question is that OK if i travel overseas 2 months before my GC expired? want to make sure 1st before i booked the flights ticket

  38. Iris Says:

    Hi, my father is an immigrant but he went home last 2010 until now, he is also a green card holder which will expire 2017, can he still come back here in america or apply for reentry.

  39. Ralph rodrigo Says:

    What do i need if im trying to visit taiwan
    Im a green card holder of america
    Thank you

  40. Nnedi Says:

    I am a greencard holder and I want to.attend my sisters wedding in September in London. I have a Nigerian passport …what do I do. Because I want to start early.
    Thank you

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