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Can you travel internationally with a green card?

Learn more about what lawful permanent residents need to do to travel internationally without compromising their immigration status.

If you have any questions regarding international travel as a green card holder, contact one of our immigration experts today at +1 844 290 6312 or leave us a message in the chat.

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    Will I lose my green card if I travel outside the United States?

    U.S. green card holders can travel outside the United States without compromising their permanent resident status as long as they are not found to be inadmissible for re-entry.

    A lawful permanent resident of the United States is permitted to leave the country whenever he or she chooses. However, green card holders are not guaranteed entry on return. To avoid being denied entry into the United States, lawful permanent residents will need to do the following:

    • Carry with them and present to immigration authorities at a U.S. port-of-entry the necessary documents relating to their current lawful permanent resident status
    • Make sure that they have legally maintained their residence in the United States
    • Make sure that they have not been found inadmissible or deportable upon reentry into the United States
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    How long can I travel outside the U.S. with my green card?

    It should be noted that there are certain limitations when it comes to international travel as a green card holder. For example, if you have obtained permanent resident status but have spent a significant amount of time outside the United States, you just may jeopardize your immigration status.

    Temporary or Brief Travel

    Temporary or brief travel outside the United States will not likely compromise your lawful permanent resident status if you go for a short vacation abroad or make a personal or business-related trip. However, it is important that you bring both your unexpired green card along with valid and current identification documents to present to border authorities upon return to the United States.

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    Long-term travel longer than 1 year

    Green card holders who have traveled abroad for more than 1 year could compromise their immigration status as long-term stays outside the United States can be considered an ‘Abandonment of Residence’.

    Abandonment of Residence refers to any non-U.S. citizen with lawful permanent residence status who appears to have cut ties to the United States and has made their primary home elsewhere. Abandonment of Residence is more concerned about the green card holder’s intention when leaving the U.S. and can be done in as little as a day.

    Immigration authorities at a U.S. port-of-entry will therefore scrutinize foreign nationals with a green card who come back to the United States after long-term travel. Customs and borders inspectors will look for the following:

    • If the green card holder has been routinely employed abroad
    • If the green card holder has maintained family and community ties in the United States
    • If the green card holder has maintained their fixed address in the United States
    • If the green card holder has frequently spent extended amounts of time outside the United States and if so which countries the green card has stayed in

    It should be noted that any lawful permanent resident who stays outside the United States for more than 1 year may need to obtain either a Reentry Permit or a Returning Resident Visa to return to the United States. To make sure if you will need one of these special travel documents or an Advance Parole Document, contact an immigration attorney who can advise you on what to do.

    Do I need a special travel document if I am traveling on a green card?

    If you are a lawful permanent resident traveling outside the United States for more than a year, you will need to apply for an appropriate travel document. The type of travel document will depend on your personal circumstances.

    Refugee Travel Document

    Foreign citizens who have been granted refugee or asylum status in the United States and are not lawful permanent residents will need to apply for a Refugee Travel Document in order to return to the United States.

    Re-Entry Permit

    If you are a lawful permanent resident or a conditional permanent resident who will be traveling abroad for longer than 1 year, you should consider applying for a Re-Entry Permit. This permit is valid for 2 years and allows non-U.S. citizens to enter the United States.

    To apply for a Re-Entry Permit, applicants will need to submit Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If approved, this permit will be used to serve as evidence that the non-U.S. citizen has the intention to live permanently in the United States.



    Returning Resident Visa

    Non-U.S. citizens with permanent resident status who will be out of the United States for more than 2 years and would like to return to the United States will need to apply for an SB-1 (Returning Resident) Visa.

    Permanent residents can apply for a Returning Resident Visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. All applicants will need to undergo a medical exam and prove their eligibility for an immigrant visa.

    Advance Parole Document

    Non-U.S. citizens who are in the process of applying for an adjustment of status from one visa to another U.S. immigrant visa will need to apply for an Advance Parole Document. This document allows non-U.S. citizens to travel outside the U.S. and return without abandoning their immigration application.

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    Do you need help applying for a Re-Entry Permit? Our lawyers can assist you. Get in touch

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      What documents do I need to bring with me to enter the U.S. as a green card holder?

      Green card holders who will be traveling abroad to a foreign country should make sure that they take the necessary documents with them to re-enter the United States. These documents may include the following:

      • A valid and unexpired U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
      • A valid passport from the permanent resident’s country of origin
      • Re-Entry Permit (if the non-U.S. citizen is traveling abroad for more than a year)
      • Another form of valid government-issued identification
      • Any other relevant immigration-related paperwork

      Permanent residents who have not received their Permanent Resident Card can travel in and out of the U.S. for short stays if they have an I-551 stamp on their passport.

      Permanent residents whose immigration application is still pending will need to obtain an Advance Parole Document before traveling outside the U.S. in order to return and not have their application canceled.


      Can I be denied entry into the United States if traveling on a green card?

      There is always a chance that green card holders can be denied entry into the United States on the grounds of inadmissibility. These include:

      • The non-U.S. citizen abandoning or relinquishing their permanent resident status
      • The non-U.S. citizen engaged in illegal activity in a foreign country while outside the U.S.
      • The non-U.S. citizen left the country while in the midst of removal or extradition proceedings
      • The non-U.S. citizen has been found to have committed a crime of moral turpitude (drug or human trafficking, murder, child abuse, sexual assault, prostitution, money laundering, security violations, etc)

      Non-U.S. citizens who have any criminal convictions and would like to know if they will be found inadmissible in the U.S. based on their criminal record should consult with an immigration attorney before traveling outside the United States.

      Can I travel if my green card will expire in 6 months?

      You may re-enter the United States as long as your green card is valid upon entry into the United States and you are not found to be inadmissible for entry.

      However, it is always advisable that non-U.S. citizens who need to travel outside the U.S. for periods longer than the validity of their current Permanent Resident Card, to apply for a renewal before they leave. After the non-U.S. citizen has filed for renewal, he or she will then receive Form I-797 (Notice of Action) which they must submit to immigration officials at the U.S. port-of-entry upon return to the United States.

      If permanent residents are unable to apply for a renewal before they travel outside the United States, then green card holders will need to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy, Consulate, USCIS office, or U.S. Port-of-Entry while abroad in order to obtain a new Permanent Residence Card if eligible.

      Can I travel using just my green card and no passport?

      Foreign citizens who do not have a valid passport from their country of citizenship can travel using their green card and a Re-Entry Permit. This should only be done if the lawful permanent resident is unable to obtain a passport from their country of citizenship or if has been proved to be extremely difficult to obtain one.

      If that is the case, the green-card holder will then be eligible to apply for a Re-Entry Permit. A Re-Entry Permit can be used as a travel document as it contains an identification page and blank pages for the use of immigration stamps and visas. In many countries, a Re-Entry Permit is a sufficient substitute for a passport. However, it is always recommended that the lawful permanent resident knows for certain whether or not the travel document will be accepted in place of a passport before traveling to a specific country.

      What happens if I lose my green card when traveling abroad?

      If you have traveled abroad only to realize that you are without your Permanent Resident Card, you will then need to contact your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Embassy or consulate officials should be able to provide you with a U.S. Government Transportation Letter which will allow you to re-enter the United States.

      Upon return to the United States, officials at the U.S port-of-entry may require you to complete Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident card) and pay the corresponding fee.

      If you think that your green card was stolen, you are advised to notify the police who should give you a police report. This report can be presented at the embassy or consulate to help prove that you are acting in good faith and did not sell your Permanent Resident Card.

      Can IAS help me with my green card?

      Our law firm prides itself on staying up-to-date with the latest in immigration law. We pride ourselves on helping clients complete their immigration forms and applications to the highest standards.

      Part of the services we offer at IAS includes the following:

      • Dedicated immigration experts who will handle your case and answer any questions you have
      • Guidance on what supporting documents should be included in your immigration application
      • Arrange accredited translations of your documents that are not written in English
      • Liaison with the USCIS as needed

      To learn more about the services we provide, get in touch with us today at +1 844 290 6312 or use our online contact form.

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