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A Green Card or US Permanent Resident Card is only given to people that live or are planning to live in the United States. US Immigration has two main categories of visas: immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. Applicants can obtain an immigrant visa or green card through their relatives, employment, marriage or other allowed procedures. The Green Cards are not suppose to be for people that want to live in a country outside of the U.S. and just come to the U.S. temporarily. Then the non-immigrant visas are for people that are allowed to travel to the US and stay temporarily, for example like the F-1 visa for students that plan to go back to their home country after finishing their studies, or the B-1/B-2 visa for business and tourist visitors among many other types of non-immigrant visas. The immigrant visas gives you the right to receive a green card, and are designed for people that are coming to live in the United States permanently. It is very important to have the right type of visa category, because people using a visa for different purposes may face the removal of their visa and may be requested to leave the country losing their visa or status.
As a green card holder you may travel abroad multiple times and re-enter the US, as long as you do not intend to stay abroad for 1 year or more, however leaving the U.S. for more than 6 months may already cause suspicious of your intent to abandon your residency. Your travel out of the U.S. must be temporary and you must be able to prove that you didn’t intent to abandon your Legal Permanent Residence. If a green card holder stay outside of the U.S. for 1 year or more or if an immigration officer finds out that the green card holder is living out of the U.S. permanently (except for some exceptions cited below) then he may ask the green card holder to give up his U.S. green card and legal residency, and the green card holder may be found inadmissible and denied reentry into the U.S. If a non-citizen resident needs to be out of the country for a long period of time it is recommended to apply for a re-entry permit, before leaving the U.S., to avoid risking losing your immigration status. Not being able to prove your temporary stay abroad may result in losing your green card. To learn more about how to show proof of your temporary stay abroad order this guide now.
Exceptions apply for people temporarily living abroad because they or their immediate relatives work with the United States armed forces abroad, or are civilian employees of the U.S. Government stationed out of the country due to official orders. In those type of cases, the spouse or child of the government or armed forces employee must not have relinquished residence, and be preceding or accompanying the member or employee, or be following to join the member or employee in the USA within a few months of his return.
The Green Card or Permanent Resident Card, also called USCIS Form I-551 serves as proof of your immigration status as a U.S. lawful permanent resident with the right to live and work permanently in the United States. It is important to understand the difference between the card itself, and the status as a permanent resident. Even if you have a valid card you might be considered out of status, for example in the case that you abandoned your residence in the United States and moved away to another country abroad; also the opposite may happen, having an expired green card but still having a valid status as a legal resident of the U.S.
A common situation that happens to many Green Card holders is having to transfer to live out of the U.S. temporarily for personal, business or employment reasons, and they just leave the country and move out of the US, thinking that their resident status will continue being valid indefinitely, but then later they find out, when coming back to enter the US, that because now they are living abroad they are asked to give up their green card by the immigration officer in the port of entry. This individuals lose their resident status and green card and would have to obtain a non-immigrant visa to be able travel to the USA. If in the future they want to live again in the U.S., they will have to apply again for a green card (if still eligible). However there is special immigration permit that can be obtained to live out of the US temporarely and keep a green card or resident status valid, it is called the reentry permit and is usually valid for a maximum of two years, but after the two years a green card holder can apply for a new permit. However many green card holders are not aware of this immigration re-entry permit or aware of the fact that they will lose their green card if moving out of the U.S. Order this immigration guide to learn how to apply for a reentry permit, how to obtain application forms, instructions, and more information on how to live temporarely abroad without losing the U.S. resident status. It is very important to take into consideration that to apply for a reentry permit you need to be physically present inside the United States. You can not obtain a re-entry permit abroad. US embassies or consulates don't issue reentry permits. Reentry permits are only available for green card holders with the intention to go back to live in the U.S. before the expiration of their reentry permit. SB-1 visa applicants are required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and have to pass a medical examination. The application process for an SB-1 visa involves paying both visa processing fees and also medical fees.
If a Green Card holder is temporarily out of the U.S. and his travel is extended for certain special reasons beyond the green card holder's control and for which he was not responsible (i.e., an accident, a relative major sickness); then he can apply for a special immigrant Returning Resident (SB-1) Visa prior to returning to the U.S. The approval of this visa will preserve a green card status and is available to lawful permanent residents who have remained outside the U.S. for longer than one year, or beyond the travel validity period of their Reentry Permit.
Download to learn what to do if you need to stay abroad for extended period of times without losing your U.S. Legal Permanent Resident Status (Green Card), about the application process to renew an expired Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) and to have acces to answers to Frequently Asked Questions including application information, how to eFile, instructions, and forms to renew your expired Green Card.