For a United States permanent resident, short and temporary travel usually doesn’t affect your status. But If your trip is longer than six months, it can cause Immigration to believe that you didn’t intend to make the U.S. your permanent home and reflect poorly on your future U.S. citizenship application. There are many criteria that the immigration Officers take into consideration when establishing your intent to return. For example, officers may look for maintained U.S. employment, continued ties to the community, taxes filed as a resident, etc. How can you travel abroad for more extended periods of time while keeping maintaining your resident status? Elizee Law Firm’s Patricia Elizee shares three options available to Green Card Holders.
1. Your first and best option is to apply for a reentry permit via Form I-131. Obtaining a reentry permit before traveling overseas allows you to apply for readmission within the permit’s validity without needing to get a returning resident visa from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. Following this option doesn’t guarantee reentry, but it does allow you to establish your intent to return and live in the U.S. These reentry permits usually are valid for two years after they’re issued. Note that while you may choose to pick up the permit overseas at the closest U.S. Embassy, Consulate or DHS office, you may only apply while you're in the U.S. before you intend to travel. Once you’ve submitted your application and completed the biometrics appointment, you don't have to be in the U.S. while USCIS approves your Form I-131.
2. If you remain abroad for more than two years, any granted reentry permits would have expired, and you should apply for a returning resident visa via Form SB-1 at the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This application process requires that you establish eligibility and a medical exam. To be eligible you need to have had the status of a lawful permanent resident when you left the U.S., have gone with the intention of returning. You must also be returning to the U.S. from a temporary visit abroad and show how you were not responsible or the reason of your overstay were beyond your control. File this form as soon as possible to allow for the three months it may take to process your visa.
3. If you need to go abroad for work, you can retain your status by filing an Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes via Form N-470 to establish intent to return to the United States. This application can lessen the adverse effects of extended time overseas when applying for future naturalization. To be qualified for this permit, you must file the form before traveling and work for a recognized organization or corporation. Eligible employers include the U.S. government, a USCIS recognized American research institution, an American corporation where you or the company engages in developing U.S. foreign trade and commerce, a public international organization of which the U.S. is a member or a religious denomination that has an organization in the U.S. in which you perform ministerial or priestly functions.
If these options don't work for you or you lose your green card and/or reentry permit while you're abroad – don't fear. In cases like this, you may file a Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Document). The carrier documentation will allow you to board a plane to the U.S. without being penalized. As always, you can reach out to our Elizee Law Firm for a consultation to analyze and strategize the best option for your unique case.
Patricia Elizee is an immigration lawyer and managing partner of Elizee Law Firm. The Firm focuses on immigration and family law cases. She can be reached at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131, www.elizeelawfirm.com, or by phone at 305-371-8846.