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Green Card Information Guide
Green Card or Permanent Resident Card serves as proof of an individual’s lawful permanent resident status in the United States. An individual with a Green Card has the right to live and work permanently in the United States. In order to remain in compliance with federal regulations, Green Card holders have to follow immigration law and be properly registered with the United States government. Green Card holders are entitled to depart the United States on vacation or for work purposes. However, there are limitations on how long an immigrant can stay outside the United States without losing his or her permanent resident status (Green Card). In most cases, a document called a “Reentry Permit” must be obtained from the USCIS prior to travel.
Reentry Permits for Green Card Holders:
Only Green Card holders may obtain a reentry permit when visiting foreign countries. United States citizens and foreign nationals on nonimmigrant visas don’t need to obtain a “Reentry Permit”.
The purpose of applying for and obtaining a reentry permit is to preserve an alien’s permanent resident status (Green Card). Green Card holders leaving the United States for a long period of time and without obtaining a reentry permit may risk losing their Green Cards. There are different requirements that all permanent residents should be aware of when traveling abroad with a Green Card. The Green Card Information Guide contains detailed information on how long a Green Card holder can stay outside the United States without losing their Green Card privileges, and information on how to apply for a reentry permit in case of extended time outside of the country.
Individuals leaving the United States for over a certain amount of time are required to apply for and obtain a special travel document known as a reentry permit. However, an individual may depart the U.S. as long as the application is submitted in the United States. The problem with applying in advance of your travel and leaving the country before the permit is approved is that the application document may be denied, hence creating a problem upon returning to the country. It may be possible to obtain a returning resident visa, but this is not guaranteed.
Important Notice for Green Card holders planning on applying for U.S. citizenship:
Before a Green Card holder can apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, he or she needs to fulfill a residency requirement. The time spent abroad does not count towards this requirement. Therefore, Green Card holders staying abroad for lengthy periods may disrupt their residency, since the time spent abroad does not count towards the residency requirement for naturalization. However, it is possible to submit an “Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.” Detailed information and application procedures can be found in the Green Card Information Guide.