If you are a legal permanent resident, you are expected to live in the United States. You can still travel abroad and spend extended periods outside the country, but you may need to take steps to establish the trip as a temporary absence.
Absences from the U.S. for permanent residents
Absences of more than 180 consecutive days
At the port of entry after you travel abroad, you may be asked to provide evidence that you have continuing ties to the United States and that you intend to continue living here. Documentation of your ongoing employment in the United States is generally sufficient evidence.
Absences of more than 365 consecutive days
You must apply for a re-entry permit (Form I-131) before you leave the United States, or your permanent residence status will be considered abandoned. A re-entry permit enables you to be abroad for up to two years. Apply for a re-entry permit.
You will also be required to provide evidence that you have continuing ties to the United States and that you intend to continue living here. For example, documentation of your sabbatical and your ongoing employment in the United States is generally sufficient evidence.
Do you need to travel before receiving permanent residence?
If you don’t receive permission to travel before your trip, you might inadvertently cancel your permanent residence application.
Eligibility for U.S. citizenship
Eligibility for U.S. citizenship after permanent residence requires that you live in the United States for five continuous years, or three continuous years if you obtained permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. If you are abroad for more than 365 days, this requirement starts over.
Here is an example: You are married to a U.S. citizen, so your requirement is three years. You live here for one year without leaving the country. Then you spend 13 months abroad. When you return, you must live here for three more years before you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen.
Do you have questions about permanent residence?
Our expert staff members will help you understand what you need to do.
Multiple extended absences
Even if you have a green card, you cannot maintain your permanent resident status if you live outside the United States indefinitely and return only for visits. Extended absences will eventually lead port-of-entry staff to question whether you have abandoned your permanent residence.
You must show that your absence from the United States was only temporary. Definite standards for temporary intent do not exist, but some guidelines can help establish it:
- You file U.S. tax returns as a U.S. resident, rather than as a nonresident.
- You have an active bank account and credit cards in the United States.
- You have a U.S. driver’s license.
- You own real estate in the United States, such as a home.
- You have a letter from your U.S. employer that explains your assignment abroad and says that you have continued or expected employment in the United States.