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For those that have U.S. Permanent Residency (Green Card Holders) but are planning on leaving the United States for an extended period of time (over a six-month period), one should file for the I-131 Re-Entry permit. Those that have not filed and have been absent from the United States for a long duration, can risk having their Green Cards confiscated, or can be made to “give up” their Green Cards while attempting to re-enter the U.S. as they have “abandoned” their Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status.
In order to apply for the I-131, one has to be physically within the U.S. when applying and should have a valid reason for leaving the U.S. Further, one should continue to maintain strong ties to the U.S. (which can come in a variety of different forms) as even with the I-131, there have been cases that an over-zealous officer has attempted to make the LPR give up their status. Cases such as these can be rectified slightly easier because of the I-131 but unfortunately, there are no guarantees.
If you are a LPR and are planning to leave the United States, it’s best to speak to an immigration attorney to discuss your specific situation. Further, if you are a Permanent Resident that has already left the U.S., and you have not abandoned your status, there are different options that can be explored in your case as well. From what we have seen, a struggling economy, brings about different and varied results from officers and immigration officials in general. Being proactive with any potential Green Card issues that can arise by applying for a US Re-Entry Permit will save you much grief rather than waiting for the unsettling to occur.
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