How Long Can I Stay out of the US without Losing my Green Card?

It’s important to remember that once you have your green card you can’t stay out of the United States for too long of a period, otherwise, you run the risk of abandoning it. The rule of thumb, generally, is that you don’t want to stay out of the United States for more than six months at a time because then you are interrupting your continuous presence in this country. You will get into trouble if you stay out of the United States for more than one year at a time because legally, you’ve abandoned your residence. It generally won’t come up unless you’re traveling in and out of the United States or stay outside of the United States for long periods of time. If at the border, immigration thinks that you’re spending more time outside of the United States, presumably if you’ve stayed out for more than a year, then you do run the risk of them trying to take the green card away from you at the airport. They will ask you to either abandon the card or place you into removal proceedings if you’d like to fight for the card.

In my experience, I don’t generally see repeat customs border patrol do that if you’ve done it on one occasion. I don’t recommend, as a practice, to go living overseas once you get your green card. If you think you’re in the situation where you might want to stay out of the United States for a lengthy period of time, at least a year or more, then it’s important to apply for a re-entry permit. That allows you to stay outside of the United States for more than two years at a time without losing your status. If you have questions about living overseas and you are a green card holder, it’s important to discuss your situation with an immigration lawyer so you don’t abandon your residence and I’d be happy to discuss your situation with you.

Cheryl David is an experienced immigration lawyer, practicing in New York City. Please click here if you have any questions regarding your Green Card or general immigration, and set up a free initial consultation.