How does foreign travel affect your permanent residency status?

As a permanent U.S. resident, you may not realize that an extended stay in a foreign country could require you to obtain a new immigrant visa in order to reenter the United States before you can resume your permanent residency here.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs explains that if you have a green card, you can only remain outside of the U.S. for up to one year. If you have a re-entry permit, this time period extends to two years.

Exceptions

Keep in mind that the travel restrictions do not apply to you if you are the spouse or child of a U.S. Armed Forces member or a civilian employee of the U.S. government stationed abroad. In this situation, you can still use your Permanent Resident Card to reenter the U.S. even if it expired during your extended stay abroad.

Before departing

Assuming that the above exceptions do not apply to you, your wisest course of action before leaving the U.S. for a temporary, albeit extended, visit abroad consists of reviewing your existing documents and determining if you will need any additional documentation. You may need to take steps to ensure that you can reenter the country after your trip.

This is particularly important if you obtained your permanent residency status by virtue of an asylum application. Special rules apply to asylees traveling outside the U.S. You need to make sure that you have all your required documentation in place before you leave. That way, you will not receive a nasty surprise when you attempt to come back.