If you have a U.S. green card, are in the process of obtaining one, or are considering beginning the process, it helps to have all of the information about it. Being a lawful permanent resident has many benefits, including being able to travel in and out of the country as you please. But you must also consider the requirements for doing so as well as the limitations that your green card may impose. Additionally, if you have not yet received your green card, there are even more limitations placed on leaving the U.S. If you have questions about traveling with a green card, we have the answers.
Different Green Cards, Same Outcome
There are many ways to obtain a green card, each tailored to a certain situation and person. These include:
- Family-based green cards
- Marriage-based green cards
- Employment-based green cards
- Investment-based green cards
- Special green cards (e.g. refugees)
Each of these categories involves filing a petition either yourself or through a sponsor and choosing between adjusting your status and going through consular processing. In any case, the outcome is the same. If approved, you will receive lawful permanent residence in the United States. It does not matter if you have an EB-1 employment green card or an F-4 family green card. Once it has been obtained, they all have the same benefits.
Benefits of a Green Card
By obtaining a green card and gaining lawful permanent resident status, you will be able to claim the following benefits of your status:
- The ability to live anywhere in the United States
- The ability to work in any job in the U.S. that do not require security clearance, which is reserved for U.S. citizens.
- The ability to act as a sponsor for other relatives who wish to get green cards. Through the F-2A and the F-2B green cards, you can sponsor your spouse and children for their own lawful permanent resident statuses.
- The freedom from having to apply for an extension. While you do need to renew your green card every 10 years, you do not need to qualify for your green card again as you would for a nonimmigrant visa.
- Legal benefits pertaining to taxes, retirement, social security, grants, and education.
- The ability to become a citizen of the United States.
- The ability to travel outside the U.S. and return freely
Traveling With a Green Card – Possible Complications
While you are permitted to come and go as you please under green card status, there are some complications that can arise if certain aspects are not considered before leaving. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan to travel with a green card.
Even though green card status includes the concept of permanence, you can still violate your status to the point in which your green card is revoked or you are no longer admissible to the U.S. If you leave the country and you become inadmissible either while you were abroad or if your inadmissibility was discovered during your absence, you may not be able to return to the U.S. Here are some reasons you might be found inadmissible:
- You have committed a crime outside of the U.S. that qualifies you for inadmissibility
- You have legally given up your green card status
- You left the U.S. while you were undergoing deportation or extradition
- You have left the U.S. while you were undergoing criminal legal proceedings.
Your lawful permanent resident status can also be considered abandoned under certain circumstances. Here is what the USCIS has to say:
“Permanent residents are free to travel outside the United States, and temporary or brief travel usually does not affect your permanent resident status. If it is determined, however, that you did not intend to make the United States your permanent home, you will be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status. A general guide used is whether you have been absent from the United States for more than a year. Abandonment may be found to occur in trips of less than a year where it is believed you did not intend to make the United States your permanent residence.”
It goes on to say that it takes factors into account such as family and community ties to the U.S., employment, tax reports, and other things that may indicate that you intend for the U.S. to be your permanent home.
Attempting to re-enter the U.S. and being found to be inadmissible may result in having your re-entry barred for several years. The best thing to do, if you think that you may be found to be inadmissible, is to remain outside the U.S. and to meet with your immigration attorney.
Lack of Required Documents
In order to ensure that you avoid complications when coming and going from the U.S., you need to make sure you have the right documents on you as you leave so that you are not kept from re-entering the country after your trip abroad. Here are some of the main documents you should have, but to know exactly what to bring for your case should be determined by your immigration attorney.
- Your unexpired passport with your U.S green card in it
- Re-entry permit (for trips outside the U.S. longer than one year)
- Advance Parole document (if you are still in the process of obtaining your green card)
What if I Need a New Green Card?
If your passport or green card is lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed during your trip abroad, you will need to make your way to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in a country that you are visiting. You can ask for a Government Transportation Letter, which should allow you to return to the U.S. and file for a replacement green card.
What if My Green Card Was Approved, but I Haven’t Received It Yet?
You can still travel abroad even if you haven’t yet obtained the physical immigrant visa after approval. To do this, you will need to get an I-551 stamp on your passport. If you are in the process of removing the conditions from a two-year marriage or investment green card, you will need to have the expired green card with you and documentation showing that you filed to have your conditions removed in a timely manner and you are only waiting on a decision.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Whether you are interested in getting a green card or already have one and would like professional advice on traveling through immigration law, it’s important to make sure that you have guidance along every step of the way. This way, you can make informed decisions about your traveling arrangements within the benefits of your green card.
VisaNation Law Group’s dedicated team of green card attorneys with decades of experience helping people make the right decisions while under green card status. We know the ins and outs of lawful permanent residents and can help you better understand your status as well. We can also help you obtain a green card if you are considering it or in the process and we can even help you take that next and final step toward citizenship if you never want to have to worry about traveling outside the U.S. again.
To get in touch with a VisaNation Law Group immigration attorneys for any of our green card services, you can fill out our contact form and schedule your consultation today.