I have a Green Card, how long can I be outside of the US?

Category:

This question is probably the most common question a Green Card Holder has:

  • how long can I be outside of the country?
  • are there any time restrictions on being outside of the country?
  • can I live abroad for a while and still be able to come back?

The topic of: travel as a Green Card Holder affects every Green Card Holder.


Here is the Rule:

A Green Card Holder CANNOT be outside of the US for longer than 1 year without a Re-entry Permit (which the permit only permits travel for up to 2 years).

If you plan to Naturalize as a US Citizen within the next few years (or at least want to keep the option open), a trip abroad should not exceed 180 days, and no more than 180 days within a 360 day period (to be safe).

However, there is an issue if you have more than 1 trip abroad as being a Green Card Holder. Time is considered in the “aggregate.” If you do not live in the US longer than your Travel Abroad, your “permanent residence” is questioned.

OUR OFFICE RULE: Never leave the US for more than 180 days out of 360 days. Period. You can travel and live abroad when you are a US Citizen. (Military Option: Expedited Naturalization)


Here is the Math:

Look to the past 12 months:

  • If no trips occurred, then 12 months or 6 months are available to travel.
  • If there was a trip abroad, reduce the coming trip by the amount traveled and add the time in the US between trips.

If you have a 2-year Green Card, no more than 12 months out of the 24 months can be spent abroad.


Scenario 1:

Wife is from the Philippines and she has a 2-year Green Card. She has had the Green Card for 1 year. She visited the Philippines for 6 months, and just returned to the US 1 month ago. She now wants to travel again next month:

  • Green Card expires December of next year. (E.g. January 2020 to December 2021)
  • For the 2-year Green Card, the wife MUST be back in the US before the 2-year card expires.
  • So, a prior trip occurred.
  • 6 months were already used.
  • If she planned to leave next month, she could, She could leave up to 6 more months.

Further Analysis:

  • Why can the second trip be for 6 months and not 8 months? (12 – 6 + 2 = 8)
    • For a 2-year Green Card, 1 year MUST be spent in the US. 6 months plus 8 months exceeds the 12-month limit.

Scenario 2:

Wife is from the Philippines and she has a 10-year Green Card. She has had the Green Card for 1 year. She visited the Philippines for 6 months, and just returned to the US 1 month ago. She now wants to travel again next month:

  • So, a prior trip occurred.
  • 6 months were already used.
  • 2 months spent between trips.
  • The second trip can be:
    • Safely: up to 8 months
    • Questionable: 8 to 12 months

Further Analysis:

  • Why can the second trip be for up to 8 months?
    • 12 months is the max for 1 trip. 12 minus one trip of 6 months equals 6. 6 months plus the 2 months stayed in the US equals 8 months. (12 – 6 + 2 = 8)
  • Why can the second trip be for 8 to 12 months?
    • When returning to the US at the end of the second trip, CBP may question whether you gave up “residence in the US” since you have been abroad for so long.
    • Except complications upon return.
    • A third trip would likely be flagged as a problem if done within 12 months of returning from the second trip.

Scenario 3:

10-year Green Card Holder left the US for 1 year, stayed in the US for 2 months, and wishes to travel again. How long can they travel?

  • Safely: up to 2 months. (12 – 12 + 2 = 2)
  • Risky: 2 months to 12 months

 

 

 

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