US Permanent Residents Temporarily Going Abroad
When an immigrant finally receives his/her lawful permanent resident status, it is expected that the immigrant’s principal place of residence is in the United States. The permanent resident can now enjoy traveling throughout the world and at times may even have to work overseas. U.S. immigration law allows a lawful permanent resident to go abroad. However, the time absent from the U.S. will determine whether the lawful permanent resident will be considered by the government as an abandonment of U. S. residency.
Immigration law states that any absences from the U.S. that is more than six months raises a presumption on the part of the government that the immigrant intended to abandon permanent resident status. The immigrant, though, can rebut this presumption by providing evidence that there was no intention of abandonment if required by the government. At times, removal proceedings are initiated by the government against the lawful permanent resident charging her/him with abandonment of residency. These proceedings subsequently go under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Court who will rule on this issue.
On the other hand, if the immigrant remains outside of the U.S. for more than one year, the “green card” or lawful permanent resident card (Form I-551) is invalidated as an entry document unless the immigrant has a valid re-entry document. The form to submit to the USCIS for a valid re-entry document is the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Evidence will have to be submitted as to what caused the immigrant to stay away from the U.S. for over a year.
A lawful permanent resident has to seriously consider whether to be away from the U.S. for more than six month because their eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship can be adversely affected. Therefore, if a resident is anticipating being away from the U.S. for more than six months he/she should file a Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes. This applies especially to lawful permanent residents who may be assigned overseas because of their employment.
Note: Abandonment of residency is very complicated and there are many factors to consider. If not handled properly, an immigrant can eventually loose his/her residency status. It is very important to consult with an Immigration Attorney if found in this situation.