Permanent residents or green card holders can travel outside the U.S. Whether or not their travel outside the country will affect their legal permanent resident status, will depend on the length of their absence from the country.
Short, temporary trips may not have an impact on their status in the U.S. But those who make lengthy trips abroad may risk their legal permanent status. Even lengthy trips may not affect their status if they do not intend to abandon their status in the U.S. But if they are found to make a foreign country their permanent home, they may lose their status in the U.S.
Green card holders who plan to make brief trips may not need a travel document. But those who plan to be outside the U.S. for a year or more, will need to file for and get a re-entry permit before they leave the country. They will need to apply for this permit by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. This permit will let them gain entry into the U.S. upon returning to the country, while the permit is still valid.
Even those who make short abroad trips are likely to be considered to have abandoned their status in the U.S. if their trips are frequent and if they do not show proper ties in the U.S. Though most brief trips are not problematic, permanent residents will need to plan their foreign trips carefully so that they do not risk their status in the U.S. Immigration officers will consider criteria such as the green card holder’s family ties in the U.S., whether or not they have paid their income taxes as a green card holder and whether they have employment in the U.S., to decide whether or not to let the green card holder into the U.S.
Green card holders who wish to make the U.S. their permanent home, will have to maintain a mailing address in the country and hold some other evidence to prove that the nature of their trip abroad is only temporary and that their intention is not to abandon their legal status in the U.S.
To travel abroad, a green card holder will need to carry his or her passport from the country of their citizenship and their green cards. However, they also will need to check the entry and exit requirements of the country to which they are traveling. They must not forget to get their travel documents, if they are going to be outside the country for a year or more.