Permanent residents (green card holders) may travel outside the United States, but should be aware that trips taken outside the US on permanent resident status lasting for long periods of time could cause reentry complications. To learn more about traveling abroad as a green card holder, the following frequently asked questions for green card holders traveling internationally should help you better understand how to travel in and out of the US.

Which documents do I need to travel outside the US?

When traveling to a foreign country from the US, you will need a valid passport from your country of citizenship or your refugee travel document. Depending on the country to which you are traveling, you may also need a visa. You should also carry your permanent resident card (green card) with you at all times, including when traveling abroad.

Which documents do I need to reenter the US?

Upon returning to the US from short trips abroad, as a green card holder you will need your valid permanent resident card in order to reenter the US. A CBP officer will review your green card and other documents such as passport or driver’s license and determine whether you may reenter the US.

What happens if I leave the US for more than 6 months?

Green card holders who leave the US for more than 180 days are subject to new immigrant inspection procedures as per 8 USC 1101.

If you are reentering the United States after staying outside the country for more than 6 months (180 days), the CBP official at the port of entry will review other aspects of your US residency and decide whether or not to allow you to enter the US.

If you have stayed outside the US for more than 6 months, the CBP officer at your port of entry may ask you some of the following:

  • If you have employment, business, home, or property in the US;
  • If you have paid US income tax as a permanent resident; and/or
  • If you have maintained continued family and community ties in the US along with a US mailing address, active bank account, and valid US driver’s license.

What happens if I leave the US for more than 1 year?

If you stay outside the US for more than 1 year, it will be treated as abandonment of your Permanent Resident status. However, in certain situations and based on various factors, abandonment may occur in less than 1 year trips also.

If you plan to stay outside the US for more than 1 year, you must apply with USCIS for a reentry permit on Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, before leaving the United States. However, approval of Form I-131 does not guarantee your reentry into the US, but it will serve as evidence to establish that you intend to live in the United States permanently.

If your absence from the US is going to be 1 year or more and you do not want your prolonged absence to affect your continued residency in the US and affect your eligibility for naturalization, then you may file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes. Permanent residents who must leave the United States on qualifying employment with a specific job with the US Government, private sector, or religious organization are eligible file Form N-470.

What happens if I leave the US for more than 2 years?

If you have been outside the US for more than 2 years and your reentry permit granted before your departure from the US has also expired, then you must apply for a Returning Resident Visa (SB-1) at your nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Again, there is no guarantee that SB-1 will be granted to you.  You will have to establish your eligibility for an SB-1 immigrant visa and will have to pass a medical exam.

Are there any travel restrictions for green card holders who travel outside the US frequently?

There are no travel restrictions for green card holders who frequently travel out the US; however, a series of temporary or brief trips taken outside the US could become problematic during reentry into the US.

If based on your frequent travels outside the US, the CBP official at the US port of entry suspects that you do not intend to make the US your permanent home, he/she might conclude that you have abandoned your US Permanent Resident Status.

Also, you can keep with you any evidence that supports the temporary nature of your absence from the United States.