Out of the US for longer than a year

The most common question many green card holders, who have to spend some time or sometimes even a lot of time out of the US have is how to keep my green card.

How to keep your permanent residency while being out of the US.

There are always some speculations about a “safe” amount of time you can spend outside of the US, most of the resources mention 6 months or 1 year.  The official USUS website doesn`t answer this question. It just has the information that remaining  outside of the United States for more than 1 year without obtaining a  re-entry permit or returning resident visa may abandon your  resident status. The official information says that you could absent for 6 months or a shorter period of time, 1 year or 2 years.

Many immigration lawyers also give an advice to obtain a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave the United States, because in the future it may assist you in showing that you intended only a temporary absence.

Anyway if it happened that you left the US for more than 6-12 months being just a green card holder (not a citizen yet), you need to be ready to show to an immigration officer in the port of arrival everything that can prove that your visit abroad had only a temporary nature. Of course there is no specific list of life circumstances, but you could be asked to prove that you still:

  • Have a family in the U.S. family
  • Employed by one of the S companies
  • filed U.S. income taxes as a resident,
  • keep your U.S. mailing address
  • keeping a U.S. bank account
  • own a property or maintain a lease contract
  • run a business in the United States,
  • or any other evidence that supports the temporary nature of your absence.

You should have a definite reason for going abroad temporarily and be ready to prove this reason: a cruise, opening and developing a new business in another country, relatives who need your help because of their health condition and etc.  Also you may need to show to an immigration officer you will have deals upon arrival that you are returning to the United States as a place of employment or business or as an actual home, not a vacation spot.

Now, let`s assume that you are already outside of the US and you are being absent for over than 6 months. What to do?  You`d better to apply for a re-entry permit (Form I-131).  And because the entry permit is good only for 1 year and will be expired after it, for being able to come back to the USA after more than 1 year of being away of the country, my lawyer recommended to  apply for a returning resident visa (SB-1) at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

In my case I had to continue my stay out of the US for longer than 1.5 years. And despite the fact that I had a good reason for it (a new business in another country required more time than I expected), I was adviced to choose a way of abounding a green card.

Read also: “How to apply for a green card“.

How to give up on your green card.

If your life circumstances keep you away from returning to the United States for over a yearlong may be it will be not a bad idea to show to the American government that you want to stay on the “official side” and you have to abandon of you  Permanent Resident Status (your green card). Because if in the future you would like to apply for a green card again, it actually can help you and to show that you are a person of good intentions and keep yourself on the right side of the law.

To be able to abandon your green card you need to file a form I-407. This form allows a legal permanent resident to officially abandon their status. Download the I-407 form. You would need to turn it in to the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country, along with your actual green card.

abandonment approved

Step by step process.

  1. Contact your nearest US embassy or consulate.

When I had to abandon my permanent resident status I happened to be in Spain. So I wrote a letter to the US consulate in Spain and ask them what and how to do. I was given the same information I got from my lawyer already and mentioned above.

  1. Download and fill out the form I-407.
  2. Submit the form I-407.

Leaving in Spain, I had to send my I-407 to Rome, Italy, because it was mentioned on the official US Embassy&Consulate in Spain and Andorra website. I sent my form as a registered mail and put my green card inside of that mail.

  1. Wait for the answer.

I got an answer from the US Consulate also via mail in about a month or a little longer. The answer looked like the photo below and calls: “Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status”. This from actually is a proof that you did “everything right” and I hope that it will help me in the future when I will apply for a U.S. visa or another green card to avoid confusion.

Form I-407