One of the many benefits of being a U.S. Green Card holder is the fact that you can travel abroad freely. There are, however, a few common mistakes that you want to avoid, to ensure that you are not jeopardizing your permanent resident status in any way.
1) Do not leave the United States without your Green Card
Although an obvious one, you would be surprised how often people forget to bring their Green Card with them when traveling.
When returning to the United States, you want to make sure that you have your Green Card and your passport from the country where you are a citizen. A United States green card is not sufficient by itself as a travel document, though it is enough to get you back into the United States.
2) Do not cut your ties to the United States when traveling
As a permanent resident, you are expected to maintain your permanent residency in the United States. There are many ways to comply with this requirement, such as maintaining your residency, your job, filing taxes, and other necessities such as health insurance and retirement in the United States. Upon reentry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officer can ask you questions about all of the above aspects of your life, and you will need to answer truthfully and in some cases provide evidence.
3) Travel outside of the United States for longer periods of time
As a Green Card holder, you are able to travel freely; however, there are certain limitations that you should keep in mind.
Traveling abroad as a green card holder for a period of one year or more will disrupt your continuous residence. More importantly, you will be at risk of abandoning your permanent resident status. Upon reentry, a CBP officer will likely interview you and if it is determined, that you did not intend to make the United States your permanent home, you will be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status and denied entry.
To avoid any issues at the border, consider applying for a re-entry permit (I-131) – in addition to serving as a valid entry document after a long absence, a re-entry permit provides evidence of your intent to return.
4) Losing your Green Card while abroad
Sometimes the worst possible scenario can happen even after the best possible planning: you can have your documents stolen.
If your Green Card is among your stolen documents, there are a few steps that you need to take before being able to reenter the United States:
- First you will need to obtain a special document to board a transportation carrier and re-enter the United States. This requires that you file form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), in person at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country that you are staying.
- The second step comes upon your return to the United States: you will be required to replace your lost or stolen green card by using Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.
5) Expired / Damaged Documents
One of the simplest mistakes to be made is to let your Green Card expire before re-entering the United States. Most green cards must be renewed every 10 years. Plan early – it will generally take at least 10-12 months to obtain a new card.
Some older types of Green Cards do not expire. This, however, contributes to another problem: dated photos or damaged cards that make it impossible for the CBP to ensure compliance. Re-entry at the U.S. port of entry is always at the CBP’s discretion. If they can’t read the card because it is distorted, or the photo is so old that you are rendered unrecognizable, there is a valid possibility of being denied entry. It is always your responsibility to ensure the card is legible and accurate.
Final words of advice
It is not possible to foresee every issue when traveling on a Green Card: things happen, and sometimes professional help is needed to solve some of the above issues or more.
Regardless of your personal situation, the immigration lawyers at Gallagher Krich, APC, are happy to help you assess the next steps and the requirements you need to meet.
Please contact us for further information and assistance with your particular matter at immigration [at] tomgallagherlaw.com.