It depends because as everything immigration, the rules are murky at best. But first a disclaimer: If you’re a permanent resident and need to remain outside of the US for more than a few months, please consult with a competent immigration attorney before finalizing your trip. The attorney may suggest certain precautions like applying for a re-entry permit or travelling with certain documents to clearly show your intention not to abandon your permanent residency.
Absences of more than one year: This will definitely get you into trouble because the immigration inspector at the port of entry has to “invalidate” your green card if you were absent for more than one year. The officer has the authority to deny you physical entry into the US, but normally will allow you into the country under “parole” (physically you’re in the U.S., but legally you remain outside) so you can explain your absence to an immigration judge who will decide whether you abandoned your permanent residency or not.
Absences of less than one year: These too can get you in trouble if the immigration inspector believes that you primarily live in another country. Most of the cases I’ve seen were people who were indefinitely living in another country and visited the U.S. from time to time, wrongly thinking that such visits would preserve their permanent residency. It mainly boils down to intent to permanently return to the U.S., and the more visible that intent, the better.
It’s one thing to tell an inspector that you always intended to return to the U.S. It’s better, however, to show that you kept your car registered and insured, that you’ve been filing your tax returns, obtained permission from your employer for an extended leave of absence, didn’t cancel your magazine subscriptions or your health club membership, and the list goes on.
So, can you lose your permanent residency if you stay outside of the US for more than six months? Yes, but you can easily prevent problems through preparation. Since the rules can be so murky, please consult with an immigration attorney before you depart.
Image Credit: Gerald L Nino