U.S. immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. Remaining outside the U.S. for more than 12 months may result in the loss of your legal permanent resident status and your green card may be taken away.
U.S. Government personnel (military and direct-hire civil service employees) and their spouses and minor children who hold legal resident status in the United States may remain outside of the United States for the duration of an official overseas assignment, plus four months, without losing their immigrant status. All other immigrants who hold U.S. resident status and reside out of the United States for more than 12 months without prior approval from U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) must obtain a new immigrant visa to return to the United States. Prior approval from USCIS consists of a re-entry permit which can only be applied for in the United States. The holder of a USCIS re-entry permit may remain outside of the United States up to 24 months. For more details on applying for a re-entry permit please visit the USCIS website.
A former immigrant who has lost U.S. resident status and desires to return to the United States as an immigrant must obtain a new immigrant visa based on either a new, approved immigrant petition or qualify for returning resident status. A U.S. relative (spouse, parent, adult offspring or sibling) or your U.S. employer may file an immigrant petition on your behalf in the normal manner. Information on the various types of immigrant and employment based petitions are contained elsewhere in this website.
The second way is for the immigrant to apply for returning resident status. An application for returning resident status requires evidence of 1) the applicant's continuing, unbroken ties to the United States, 2) that their stay outside the United States was truly beyond the applicant's control and 3) that the intent of the applicant was to always return to the United States. Evidence may consist of continuous compliance with U.S. tax law, ownership of property and assets in the United States and maintenance of U.S. licenses and memberships. Having U.S. relatives, attending school overseas or stating an intent to return is generally insufficient. You must show proof.
Expired/Expiring green card
If your green card has expired or is expiring, please read the notice below:
A carrier notification letter was issued on September 13, 1999, notifying all air carriers that they should permit boarding to any bona fide U.S. Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) in possession of an expired I-551 with a 10-year expiration date, if the expiration date on the card is the only reason that the LPR would otherwise not be boarded.
Carriers also were informed that this policy does not affect the Conditional Permanent Resident in possession of a Form I-551 with a 2-year expiration date. The Conditional Permanent Resident in possession of an expired Form I-551 must continue to have evidence that the Form I-551 expiration date has been extended.