A U.S. lawful permanent resident that intends to remain outside the United States for more than six consecutive months should consider applying for a Re-Entry Permit.
General Rule Regarding Lengthy Absences from the United States
Generally, if an U.S. lawful permanent resident remains outside the United States for more than six consecutive months, there is a rebuttable presumption he/she has abandoned residency in the United States. If a U.S. lawful permanent resident remains outside the United States for more than one consecutive year, such person is deemed to abandon U.S. residency. There are several cases whereby a person remained outside the U.S. for less than one consecutive year and lost U.S. lawful permanent residency
When U.S. lawful permanent residents seek re-entry into the United States, one of most common questions asked by the Immigration Inspector is, “How long have you been outside the United States?” If the answer is less than six months, admission is generally swift and without further questioning. Please note that Immigration Inspectors have ready access to prior international travels of all individuals.
However, if the answer is longer than six months, the Immigration Inspector has the authority to challenge whether a U.S. lawful permanent resident is truly a U.S. resident. The Immigration Inspector has the authority to refer a case to an Immigration Judge for a hearing to determine whether a person is truly a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
If a person remains outside the U.S. for longer than one consecutive year, the Immigration Inspector will likely seek to terminate the person’s U.S. lawful permanent residency status.
Only Two Ways to Lose U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence Status
There are only two ways a person can lose his/her U.S. lawful permanent residence status. First, an Immigration Judge can enter a final order of removal during immigration proceedings. A final order of removal can be appealed in federal court.
Second, a person can voluntarily surrender U.S. lawful permanent residency status by executing a Form I-407, Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status at an overseas U.S. consulate or in the presence of a U.S. Department of Homeland Immigration Officer.
Benefits of a U.S. Re-Entry Permit
A Re-Entry Permit is generally considered an “insurance policy” for a U.S. lawful permanent resident intending to be outside the United States for an extended period of time, but wishing to return to the United States and continue residency. The Re-Entry Permit serves as evidence of intention to return to the U.S. to continue residency.
Possession of a Re-Entry Permit makes it difficult, but not impossible, for the U.S. government to challenge a person’s U.S. lawful permanent residence status after a lengthy trip overseas.
Application Procedures for a Re-Entry Permit
A U.S. lawful permanent resident must file an application with the USCIS. The application must be received by the USCIS prior to the applicant’s departure from the United States. If the applicant is physically outside the United States when the application is received, the application will be denied.
Upon approval, the Re-Entry Permit, which is similar in size to a passport, is valid for a period of two years. A Re-Entry Permit is not renewable. However, a person may apply for a new Re-Entry Permit after two years. After the second Re-Entry Permit, subsequent Re-entry Permits are issued for a period of one year instead of two years.
If a person remains outside the U.S. longer than the period of the Re-Entry Permit, he/she should apply for a special immigrant visa at an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate.