February 20, 2014

Nowadays it is very common to see green card holders (Lawful Permanent Residents or LPRs) being questioned by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers at the airports for longer than usual trips out of U.S. Green card status is granted to persons who would like to live in the US permanently. If an LPR is planning to stay out of the U.S. for an extended period of time then s/he has to apply for a Reentry Permit, which allows a permanent resident or conditional resident to apply for admission to the U.S. upon returning from abroad during the permit’s validity.

General rule is that the green card is no longer valid for re-entry (even though unexpired) after 1 year abroad. The CBP officers can still make a determination at the time of each entry whether the green card should be surrendered because the permanent resident has been living outside the U.S. for too long or has no ties with the U.S. If the CBP officers determine that the green card holder is living and working abroad and just coming to the U.S. occasionally, they may deny entry. In general, there are two different types of green card holders who would definitely benefit from obtaining a re-entry permit to prevent difficulties while entering the U.S.;

First group includes green card holders who obtained their LPR status while they live in a foreign country (most of them through DV lottery) and they need some time to make the necessary preparations to move to the U.S. It is very important for these LPRs to preserve their green cards because it allows them to work and live in the U.S. These LPRs or their children may also become eligible for in-state college tuition benefits.

Second group includes green card holders who obtained their LPR status while living in the U.S. (most of them through employment or marriage) and they decided to relocate to a foreign country due to a new job opportunity or family matters before becoming eligible for U.S. citizenship application. These LPRs want to preserve their green card to maintain their ties with the U.S. 
 
As mentioned above, in order to prevent the loss of a green card status due to an extended trip abroad (whether it is for 12 months or less) one has to apply for a Re-entry Permit before leaving the U.S. Re-entry permits are usually approved for 2 years, allowing the green card holder to go in and out of the U.S. for 2 years (or stay out for up to 2 years). They are considered to be an official declaration of a green card holder’s intent to live in the U.S. permanently. A green card holder can file subsequent Reentry Permit applications as long as there is still a need for international travel. For a successful re-entry permit application, technical details about client’s travel plans must be carefully discussed and planned. Also a thorough follow-up of the application is required.

Remzi Güvenç Kulen, Esq.