A Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) more commonly referred to as green card holder is primarily expected to live and work or otherwise maintain his/her residence in the United States. There are implications if one stays outside of the U.S. for more than six months and less than one year and even more far reaching consequences if one stays beyond one-year. The only exception is if the LPR holds a valid re-entry permit.
This article is intended to help LPRs who have been stranded outside of the United States during this COVID-19 pandemic and options available to them.
LPR staying outside of the U.S. for more than 6 months or 180 days, but less than a year or 365 days
If an LPR stays outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days and less than 365 days, there is a rebuttable presumption that s/he has broken the continuity of residence for purposes of naturalization. If an LPR had travelled out of the U.S. with a valid return ticket, and the return date falling within the 180-day period and the only reason s/he could not return is because of the lockdown, then the LPR may be able to present these facts and have the presumption rebutted. The LPR can use existing green card to return to the U.S.
LPR staying outside of the U.S. for more than 365 days
If an LPR stays outside of the U.S. for more than 365 days and s/he is not in possession of a valid re-entry permit, then s/he is considered to have abandoned his/her status as LPR. S/he would need a returning resident visa (SB-1) to return to the US.
Re-entry permit can be applied by an LPR prior to departing the U.S. and once approved, it is usually valid for a duration of two-years from the date of approval. This permits the LPR to return to the U.S. during the validity of the re-entry permit.
Immigrant Visa Issued abroad but, unable to travel during the validity
Immigrant visas are usually valid for a period of six months from the date of issue. If one is unable to travel during the validity of the visa on account of the COVID-19 lockdown, then one will have to have the immigrant visa re-issued to facilitate travel. The medical and police clearance certificate needs to be valid for the immigrant visa to be re-issued.
Expired Green Card
If you are a LPR and stuck outside of the United States and the validity of your physical green card has expired, then under the following circumstances, the CBP will permit the carrier to allow you to board the flight / vessel.
- If your Green Card was issued with a 10-year expiration date and you have been outside of the U.S. for less than a year;
- If your expired Green Card had a two-year expiration date and you also have Form I-797, Notice of Action, showing that you filed a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status (and you have been outside of the U.S. for less than a year). The Notice of Action extends the validity of the card for a specified length of time, generally one year; or
- If you are a military service member or employee of the U.S. government (or an LPR dependent of such an individual) on official U.S. military or government travel orders, regardless of time outside of the United States.
If you fall under one of the above categories, it is advisable for you to check with your airline or transportation carrier before you file Form I-131A. In some situations, the carrier may still refuse to let you board even if you are in one of the above categories. If this happens, then you will have to file a Form I-131A to facilitate your travel.
It is Important to be Prepared for Travel
If you are an LPR or have been issued an immigrant visa recently and in one of the above situations, it is important that you prepare yourself to face questions at the port-of-entry or to apply for status as a returning resident (SB-1 visa) or to have the documentation in place for re-issuance of visa. Detailed article on procedure to apply for status as returning resident is available here. If you need professional help, feel free to discuss your situation with one of the attorneys at the Murthy Immigration Services.