If you are living in the U.S. as a green card holder – that is, as a lawful permanent resident (or “LPR”) – certain restrictions apply to travel outside of the U.S. If you will be away from the U.S. for six months or more, before you travel, consult with a Las Vegas immigration attorney.
For a number of reasons, many persons who have lawful permanent resident status may need to travel outside of the United States for a significant length of time. If you are one of these persons, you’re going to encounter rules and regulations that may be complicated and confusing.
What are the basic rules and requirements for LPRs who wish to travel outside of the United States? What you are reading is a basic introduction to the travel rules and regulations for lawful permanent residents. Keep reading, and you will find some important answers.
International Travel Rules for Lawful Permanent Residents
While international travel is usually restricted to one year if you are a lawful permanent resident, there are a number of exceptions – if you want to keep your lawful permanent resident status – and there are several steps you can take to help you retain that status.
The amount of time allowed for a lawful permanent resident’s travel outside of the United States will depend on the reasons for the travel and on whether the lawful permanent resident intends to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
A lawful permanent resident in the U.S. is a foreign national who has chosen to make the U.S. his or her permanent home. However, if a lawful permanent resident demonstrates an intention other than making the U.S. his or her permanent home, that person could lose LPR status.
Why is International Travel a Concern for Immigration Officials?
Immigration officials – and especially border officials – are trained to recognize the indications that a lawful permanent resident may in fact be making another country his or her permanent home while taking advantage of the benefits of LPR status in the United States.
There is no absolute rule regarding how long a lawful permanent resident may travel outside of the United States, but if you leave for more than a year, you will probably raise suspicions and come to the attention of immigration officials.
How Can You Prove Your Intentions?
Intentions are difficult to prove when you travel internationally, but after a year, immigration authorities may look for indications that a lawful permanent resident does not intend to reside permanently in the United States. Questions that may be raised include but are not limited to:
1. Have you maintained community and family ties in the United States?
2. Have you filed income taxes as a lawful permanent resident?
3. Have you maintained a mailing address in the U.S.?
4. Have you obtained a valid driver’s license in the United States?
5. Are you a property owner or a business owner in the U.S.?
6. Have you filed an application for naturalized U.S. citizenship?
Will You Need a Reentry Permit?
If your travel outside of the U.S. may last beyond one year, before you depart, apply for a reentry permit by completing Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document), and pay the filing fee.
When you apply for a reentry permit, you will need to explain why you need to be outside of the United States for more than a year.
You should also include evidence of your continuing ties to the U.S. that will demonstrate to immigration officials that you do not intend to abandon your ties to the U.S. or your lawful permanent resident status.
A reentry permit does not guarantee that you will be allowed to re-enter the United States, but it helps to demonstrate your intention to return and to reside here permanently. A reentry permit is valid for up to two years. It cannot be extended.
However, even with a reentry permit, in most cases, an absence from the United States of more than a year will break the continuous residence requirement for naturalization.
What About Longer Absences from the U.S.?
If you may be away from the United States for two years or longer, you should you apply for a Returning Resident Visa using Form SB-1. SB-1 applicants must qualify for an SB-1 visa and submit to a medical examination.
If you should lose your lawful permanent resident status due to an extended stay outside of the United States, you may seek reinstatement by filing an application with a U.S. Consulate in another nation.
The application for reinstatement must demonstrate that you left the United States with the intention of returning and that your stay outside of the U.S. was extended because of circumstances beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.
If You Plan to Become a Naturalized Citizen
If you are a lawful permanent resident who intends to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, your international travel may be restricted by the continuous residency requirement for naturalization.
For most of those who apply for naturalized citizenship, to establish continuous residency, you must be physically in the United States for thirty months or more over the five years immediately prior to your naturalization.
However, even with less than thirty months of physical presence, you may qualify for naturalization if you can demonstrate that your international travel does not mean that you are abandoning your lawful permanent resident status.
Still, it is best to keep trips outside of the U.S. shorter than six months. If you need to be away from the U.S. for more than one year for employment reasons, you will need to complete and submit Form N-470 (Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes).
How Will an Immigration Lawyer Help You?
The right immigration attorney can help you complete the forms for international travel and for naturalized citizenship so that there are no mistakes or misunderstandings that might keep you from obtaining citizenship or that might lead to the loss of your lawful permanent resident status.
Immigration is always complicated. In 2020, new rules set forth by the Trump Administration and new restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are making immigration and international travel even more complicated.
If you need to be outside of the United States, do not let confusing immigration rules and regulations keep you from traveling internationally.
Before You Travel Abroad, Get the Advice You Need
A Las Vegas immigration lawyer can explain the rules about travel restrictions, residency requirements, and reentry, and your attorney can also explain how these rules apply to your personal circumstances.
Having the advice of the right Las Vegas immigration attorney will allow you to travel with confidence and peace of mind regarding your lawful permanent resident status.