I have a green card, but have been living outside of the U.S. for years. Can I use my green card to come back into the U.S.?
Reentering the U.S. after a long trip
There is not one magic list that exists where we can check whether a green card is valid. Instead, when you apply for a benefit, such as naturalization, or you attempt to enter the U.S. from abroad, the government may determine that you abandoned your permanent resident status and will initiate a process to relinquish your green card. United States CBP has the authority to decide at the border whether a person has abandoned their residency and may not allow that person to enter.
Considerations for whether a person has abandoned permanent resident status
USCIS states that a green card holder abandons his permanent residence if he moves to other country intending to live there permanently, or remains outside the U.S. for an extended time, unless the trip was intended to be a temporary absence.
- The government considers several factors when determining whether you have a temporary absence:
- The reason for your trip;
- How long you intended to be absent from the United States;
- Any other circumstances of your absence; and
- Any events that may have prolonged your absence.
- Note: Obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave, or a returning resident visa (SB-1) from a U.S. consulate while abroad, might help show that you intended only a temporary absence.
What happens if the U.S. government believes my permanent resident status has been abandoned?
CBP will sometimes offer form i407 to complete. This is the form for relinquishing U.S. permanent residency and you should speak with an attorney if you don’t understand the implications of submitting this form. You could also be issued a Notice to Appear in Court, where the government would initiate court proceedings to prove you abandoned your residency. If the court determined that although you lived in another country, this was merely a temporary absence (See temporary absence factors above) you could keep your permanent resident status. You’d then need to maintain your permanent resident status. [read more about maintaining your green card status]
Consider criminal history and other inadmissibility factors before trying to enter the U.S.
Grounds of Inadmissibility can prevent a person from entering the U.S., or cause him to lose his green card status. The USCIS policy manual discusses criminal grounds of inadmissibility. An attorney can help you review other grounds of inadmissibility if you have concerns.
If you’ve been outside of the U.S. for more than a year, you should review your situation carefully, as you may be in danger of losing your permanent resident status. Review your reasons for being abroad with an attorney if you have concerns.