5 Green Card Holder Travel Requirements and Restrictions to Know Before Leaving the US

Before we discuss the travel requirements for a US green card holder, congratulations on receiving your green card! 

As a permanent resident, you now have the right to live in the US indefinitely. You can also travel abroad to your favorite holiday destinations or visit your family members in your home country. But before making such travel plans, you must consider a few regulations to avoid jeopardizing your legal permanent resident status. 

Overall, you must ensure that you obtain the proper travel documents, maintain your US residence, and avoid becoming inadmissible when returning to the US. 

Here are more travel requirements and regulations to consider.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is NOT legal advice. If you need to speak to a marriage green card attorney, please call us at 253-332-9193 or send us a message online

Travel Restrictions for Green Card Holders

Ideally, there are no restrictions on the number of times you can travel out of the US as a permanent resident. However, frequent trips abroad may raise questions about your intentions to reside in the US permanently. For this reason, there are some regulations you must follow to maintain your permanent residence status.

1. Traveling Abroad for Less than 180 Days

Trips that last less than 180 days won’t affect your permanent residence status. However, you must ensure that your Permanent Resident Card, also known as Form I-551, doesn’t expire while abroad to avoid re-entry challenges.

Despite being a lawful permanent resident in the US, you need your foreign passport to gain entry into another country. Unfortunately, your Permanent Resident Card doesn’t serve this purpose despite being valid. The good news is you don’t require a valid passport to re-enter the US. 

You also need to confirm with the embassy of your destination country for any other travel requirements and restrictions. For example, some countries require unvaccinated travelers to undergo a mandatory pre-entry quarantine and test following the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, travel airlines have their boarding requirements, such as having a government-issued identification. Therefore, you need to check with your airlines before planning your trip.

2. Traveling Abroad for More than 180 Days but Less than a Year

If you intend to stay abroad for more than 180 days but less than a year, the US Customs and Border Protection will assume that you’ve abandoned your residence in the US. In such a case, you must prove to the CBP officer that your intentions for traveling abroad were temporary.

The CBP office would want to know the following:

  • If your tax payments are up to date
  • If you maintained family and community ties in the US 
  • If you sustained a US employment
  • If you have an active bank account, mailing address, or valid licenses in the US
  • If you have any business, property, or home in the United States

3. Traveling Abroad for More than a Year

The CBP treats prolonged absence from the US as an abandonment of permanent residence. As a result, you may lose your permanent resident status if you stay abroad for over one year. Luckily, you can prevent that by taking a few precautions before your trip.

You must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the USCIS to obtain a re-entry permit if you plan to be away for more than one year. This permit is valid for two years and establishes your intentions of permanently residing in the US. However, it doesn’t guarantee automatic entry back into the country. The CBP officer may consider other factors affecting your admissibility into the US.

4. Travel Requirements for Traveling Abroad for More than Two Years

It may not be easy to re-enter the US after spending more than two years abroad as a permanent resident. Your re-entry permit will no longer be valid, and you’ll have lost your permanent resident status. However, the Returning Resident Visa could be your only chance of returning to the US.

The Returning Resident Visa is an immigrant visa that a permanent resident to re-enter the US and resume their permanent residence status. Nevertheless, they must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Must have been a permanent resident by the time of departing from the US
  • Must have had intentions of returning to the US 
  • Reasons beyond their control must have protracted their stay abroad 

If you meet the above requirements, you can apply for the visa through the US Embassy or Consulate.

5. Seeking US Citizenship after a Lengthy Trip Abroad

Lengthy trips abroad affect your continuous physical presence and residence requirement for citizenship by naturalization. Spending more than six months abroad breaks your continuous residence sequence.

To avoid that, you may file Form N-470 to preserve your continuous residence status while abroad. You must have qualifying employment with the US government, private sector, or religious organization to be eligible to file.

Other Reasons for US Reentry Refusal

The CBP officer may deny you re-entry to the US for reasons other than an expired green card or travel permit. These reasons include the following:

  • You have committed a crime that makes you deportable
  • You’re involved in illegal work in the US
  • You have a medical condition that may put the public at risk
  • There are travel bans and restrictions for travelers from certain countries

And more.

Frequently Asked Questions about Travel Requirements for A Green Card Holder

Here are some common questions green card holders ask before traveling abroad.

Can I Travel Abroad While Awaiting My Green Card?

You can travel abroad while waiting for your green card. First, however, you must apply for an Advance Parole travel document that allows you re-entry to the US. In addition, this document proves that you haven’t abandoned your green card application. As a result, the USCIS will continue processing your application while you’re away.

Will My Extended Absence Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic Affect My Naturalization Process?

Extended absence in the US for a lengthy period jeopardizes your eligibility for naturalization. However, given that the covid-related travel restrictions are events out of your control, you stand a fair chance of proving that you had no intentions of overstaying your visit abroad.

You may want to consult an immigration attorney to learn about your options in such cases.

The Bottomline

It’s exciting to plan an international trip after receiving your green card. You can travel as many times as you like, ensuring that you preserve your residence in the US by obtaining the proper travel documents.

Planning an international trip doesn’t come without challenges, especially regarding documentation. In addition, there are several overwhelming laws and procedures to follow, particularly if you’re planning a lengthy trip.

For example, you may need documents to prove that you didn’t intentionally extend your trip abroad. Such situations may be complex depending on how long you were absent from the US. 

Contact an Immigration Attorney Before Traveling Outside of the US

If you intend to travel outside of the United States, consider contacting an experienced immigration attorney like Serah Waweru before leaving the country. An attorney can review your immigration status and provide the best possible advice regarding your travel plans. The Law Office of Serah Waweru serves clients in Tacoma, Lakewood, Kent, Renton, University Place, Burien, Tukwila, Auburn, Federal Way, Olympia, and all over the United States.

Call us today at (253) 332-9193 to schedule a consultation or send us a message online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible! 

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