To maintain their status, lawful permanent residents of the U.S. or “green card” holders have to satisfy physical presence requirements. Individuals absent from the United States for trips outside of the country that last a temporary period of time, will not generally encounter any problems. However, individuals who spend extensive time outside of the U.S. ranging from six months to one year most likely will result in questioning by immigration officers (Customs and Border Protection) once they try to reenter the U.S. at a port of entry. Green card holders may be questioned regarding their intentions related to maintenance of their permanent residence status. Individuals who must travel outside of the U.S. for prolonged periods of time or for shorter periods of time frequently, should always carry evidence of their intent to maintain their lawful permanent residence in the U.S. This evidence includes:
- Documentation of ownership of property
- Mortgage or a lease agreement
- U.S. bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Proof of U.S. based assets and investments
- A valid driver’s license issued by a U.S. state
- Employment verification letter from a U.S. employer, and/ or
- Proof of financial support of relatives in the U.S., including immediate family members such as their spouse and children.
Individuals absent from the U.S. for a period of one year or longer, may jeopardize their permanent resident status unless before departing they apply for and obtain a “Reentry Permit.” Reentry Permits are generally issued for two year periods and establish the green card holder’s intention to retain their lawful permanent residence status in the U.S. despite extended travel abroad. While a reentry permit will allow individuals to establish to the satisfaction of the Immigration Service that they do not wish to abandon their green card, a reentry permit will not help them in demonstrating that they meet the physical presence requirements to naturalize and obtain U.S. citizenship. Even with a reentry permit, an absence of one year or longer from the country will mean that the green card holder must wait an additional two years and one day prior to applying for citizenship. Keeping an itinerary of all travels abroad which includes dates of travel and destinations visited is suggested for individuals who ultimately wish to apply for U.S. citizenship.©2013 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.