As a Miami immigration lawyer, I often receive questions from green card holders about what they can and cannot do. One of the most common questions that I receive is, “How long can I stay outside of the United States and still keep my status as a lawful permanent resident?” Below are the answers to this, and other frequently asked questions.

I already have my green card; why should the United States government care about where I reside?

The United States government wants to make sure that as a lawful permanent resident of the United State, if you do leave the U.S., it should only be for a temporary visit. It should not be because you want to settle down and make a permanent home elsewhere. It should be noted that if you retained an immigration lawyer to help you obtain your green card, he/she should have provided  you with information on how best to retain your green card.

What does “abandonment” mean for lawful permanent residents?

Abandonment” is a finding by the U.S. government that you have made your home in another country, and have therefore “abandoned” (given up) your United States residence.

When is my permanent residence considered “abandoned?”

If you leave the United States with the intention of making some other country your permanent home, you are considered to have abandoned your U.S. residency.

You may be found to have abandoned your status if you:

  • Move to another country, intending to live there permanently.
  • Remain outside of the United States for an extended period of time, unless you intended this to be a temporary absence, as shown by:
    • The reason for your trip;
    • How long you intended to be absent from the United States;
    • Any other circumstances of your absence; and
    • Any events that may have prolonged your absence.
    • Note: Obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave, or a returning resident visa (SB-1) from a U.S. consulate while abroad, may assist you in showing that you intended only a temporary absence.
  • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period.
  • Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your U.S. tax returns.

I’ve heard that all you have to do  is spend at least 6 months out of the year in the United States to maintain your green card. Is that true?

Simply put, no. This is one of the most common and pervasive urban legends that I encounter as a Miami immigration attorney. There are rumors that a green card holder only needs to enter the U.S. once a year to keep his/her green card, or spend at least 6 months in the United States each year. This is not true.

You may raise suspicions of the immigration authorities if you are away for longer than six months. However, there is no hard and fast “six month” rule. If you are away from the United States for any an extended period of time, you should be prepared to answer to the immigration authorities who may question you about your absence. On the other hand, if you are away from the United States for more than a year you will most certainly have to attend an Immigration Court hearing before you can reclaim your U.S. residency and green card.

If you have any questions in regard to the above, do not guess. You should consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to make sure that you are in compliance with the requirements of the immigration authorities.

Help,  I have to make a trip outside the United States that lasts over a year!

If you absolutely have to spend more than a year outside the United States, you or your Miami immigration attorney can apply for a reentry permit (Form I-131). In the reentry permit, you will have to provide very compelling reasons as to why you need to stay outside the United States for more than one year. If you do not have a valid reason for failing to return within one year, there is a strong chance you will lose your green card.

If you would like more information on how to retain your green card, please contact Miami immigration attorney Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305)895-2500 or visit our website at .

Coronavirus update: We are safely open for business! USCIS is still accepting new filings for all applications. Our office is offering virtual consultations for new clients so that you don't have to come to our office in person. Call us to schedule your virtual meeting today.
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