Legal Blog

Traveling Abroad as a Legal Permanent Resident Without Abandoning Status

A Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) or green card holder will remain in status as long as they do not lose or abandon their status, or until they complete their naturalization process.  Abandoning status can result from several different actions, including the following:

  • If you move to another country with the intent to live there.
  • If you spend, “an extended period of time” in another country unless you can prove that this trip was intended to be temporary.
  • If you fail to file income tax returns while residing outside the U.S.
  • If you declare yourself on your taxes as a “nonimmigrant.”[1]

What documents are helpful to provide upon inspection if you plan to travel outside of the U.S.?

  • Passport from country of origin.
  • Unexpired U.S. green card.
  • A reentry permit if you plan on spending a significant amount of time outside of the U.S.
  • Recent U.S. tax returns.
  • U.S. driver’s license.

What happens to legal permanent residents upon the arrival at a port of entry?

When a green card holder arrives to a U.S. port of entry, they are subject to an initial inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protections (CBP). The green card holder will be screened by CBP to determine if they are a “returning resident” or an “arriving alien.”

If there are further questions, a secondary inspection may be required. These can be brief or last several hours. During the secondary inspection, a CBP officer will check records and ask questions to collect biographic information on the LPR and determine actual place of residence.

If CBP decides that you are a returning resident, then you will be quickly admitted into the U.S. However, an LPR can be deemed an “arriving alien” after an absence of only 180 days.

The following are 6 reasons a legal permanent resident can be deemed an arriving alien, as listed in 101(a)(13)(C):

  1. They have abandoned or relinquished their status (e.g. they executed a form I-407).
  2. They have been absent from the U.S. for a continuous period, in excess of 180 days.
  3. They have engaged in illegal activity after departing the U.S.
  4. They departed the U.S. while in removal proceedings.
  5. They committed a criminal offense making them inadmissible under INA 212a, unless they have been granted relief under 212(h) or 240A(a).
  6. They are attempting to enter at a time and place other than that designated by immigration officers, such as trying to enter the U.S. without inspection.

What to do if you have been abroad for an extended period of time?

If traveling abroad for one year or more, there is a high risk that this will be perceived as abandoning legal permanent resident status. Being abroad between six months to a year can also result in a higher level of scrutiny.

If CBP stops you at a port of entry and they believe that you have abandoned your status, you may be persuaded into signing Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status.[2] However, you have the right to refuse to sign the form and request to see an immigration judge. CBP will then issue you a Notice to Appear (NTA). Even if you do sign form I-407, you still have the right to request a hearing before an immigration judge to argue your case.[3]