Lawful permanent residency — or a Green Card — represents the most extensive rights a person can attain short of U.S. citizenship. However, it is not without limits. Green Card holders, especially those who ultimately hope to attain citizenship, need to exercise some caution when traveling abroad for any extended period.
Although lawful permanent residents (LPRs) have fairly unrestricted travel rights, they may need to attain travel documents from their countries of citizenship to be admissible in other nations. Moreover, if you plan to be abroad for less than one year, a valid Green Card is usually sufficient to gain reentry to the U.S. upon your return. However, longer trips may require additional steps:
- For LPRs who plan on being absent from the United States for more than one year, applying for a reentry permit prior to departure from the U.S. is a safe step that may expedite your reentry — and lessen the possibility of complications relating to your return.
- Because reentry permits are only valid for two years, LPRs traveling abroad for a longer period of time may have to obtain an SB-1 returning resident visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate to return to the United States.
- Attaining U.S. citizenship by naturalization for most applicants requires five years of continuous residence in the U.S. prior to the date of application. Traveling abroad for a period of six months or more may disrupt or restart this period. Even if you are able to reenter the United States as an LPR, your ability to apply for citizenship may be delayed.
Taking a lengthy trip abroad is a huge undertaking that requires substantial advance planning. If you are a lawful permanent resident in the U.S., consulting an experienced Tampa Bay area immigration law attorney from the Law Offices of K. Dean Kantaras, P.A. should be part of that planning.