Important things to remember and consider for green card holders when traveling
Clients who are green card holders (i.e. permanent residents) frequently ask me questions to consider when traveling internationally, outside of the United States.
Here are some things to consider to minimize the potential for problems at the border. After a long intercontinental flight, no one wants to find themselves in a position to be subjected to lengthy questioning by CBP officers at the airport. Particularly in situations where the Green Card holder has spent significant time (more than 6 months, typically) outside of the US, there are potential dangers one should be aware of, or risk losing. the much appreciated Green Card. Interestingly, CBP, in its operations manual, has good guidance on what immigration inspectors should consider when inspecting Green Card residents seeking readmission to the US.
Admission, in general The CBP officer will admit a resident alien returning to a non-relinquished address, if not otherwise inadmissible, by presenting a valid Green Card (I-551), a re-entry permit, a refugee travel document (indicating legal permanent residence) or temporary evidence of LPR Status such as Travel Statmp (or ADIT seal).
A returning resident alien is not required to present a valid passport to re-enter the US, although most will have one, as a passport is often required to enter a foreign country. When presented, the passport is normally annotated with “ARC”, and the foreigner’s “A” number must be written on the page with the admission stamp.
Admission after prolonged absences The Green Card holder, who has been outside the United States for more than one year (two, if presenting a reentry permit), can be seen by CBP as possibly abandoned residence. Other indicators of possible abandonment of residence are:
(1) employment abroad,
(2) have direct family members who are not permanent residents,
(3) arrival on a charter flight where the majority of passengers are non-residents with return passage,
(4) lack of a fixed address in the US, OR
(5) Frequent prolonged absences from the United States.
In questionable cases, it is appropriate for CBP to request other documentation to substantiate residency, such as driver’s licenses and employer identification cards.
Green card holder without a green card? Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) who lack evidence of alien registration because it has been left at home or in a safe deposit box, can obtain a visa waiver, fee, from CBP, or defer inspection to another CBP office local to the Resident’s home in the United States
If the LPR claims that the card was lost or stolen, the POE can accept a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, for a fee. These actions can be considered once the LPR’s identity has been confirmed, preferably by cross-checking the data contained in CBP’s computer systems.
An LPR applying for a visa waiver must complete a Form I-193, Application for Visa or Passport Waiver, if admissible. The applicant requesting the exemption must review the information recorded on the printed form to verify its accuracy and sign where indicated. If the exemption is approved, the LPR must receive a copy of Form I-193 and be admitted as a returning resident. If an exemption is denied, the applicant can be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
CBP officers can also use something called “deferred inspection.” This is generally limited to green card or visa holders who:
or you will be able to present the required document within a few days; gold,
or claims to have lost or stolen Form I-551, cannot pay the Form I-90 fee at the time of initial inspection and has not previously been deferred for filing the Form I-551 document.
The LPR must file a Form I-90 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the next 30 days.
Conditional residents A conditional resident is generally eligible for the US if they apply before the second anniversary of admission for conditional residence. The conditional resident may also be eligible if they have a bill of lading (or “letter of carriage”) from a US consulate, have been stationed abroad by government order, or are the spouse or child of a parked person abroad by order of the government. Otherwise, the applicant for admission as a conditional resident must have filed a joint petition or waiver application, Form I-751 (marriage-based cases) or Form I-829 (investment-based cases) , in the US Within 90 days before the second anniversary, but no more than 6 months before the application for admission.
Once the I-751 has been filed, the applicant will receive a receipt notice (Notice of Action I-797) from USCIS, extending the conditional resident status for another year, allowing them to travel.
If none of those conditions exist, the inspector may defer the applicant to file Form I-751 or I-829 if there is reason to believe that the Service will approve a petition or waiver. If the applicant is not admissible, CBP has the authority to place him in removal proceedings.
Question of “meaningful exit” When examining a Green Card holder who has spent significant time abroad (usually more than six months), when there are doubts as to whether the LPR may have abandoned their residence in the US, the CBP inspector has to assess the situation and make a determination as to the intent of the LPR and the nature and reason for the prolonged absence of the United States. Before 1997, if a lawful permanent resident was believed to be inadmissible, immigration inspectors had to first determine whether his absence was “a significant interruption” of permanent residence. Subsequent revisions to immigration laws have formalized a ‘test’ for immigration inspectors to apply in this situation. Based on this test, a lawful permanent resident is NOT considered to be applying for admission, unless the alien:
or has abandoned or renounced that state;
or have been continuously absent for more than 180 days;
or have participated in illegal activity after leaving the US;
or has left due to legal process seeking removal;
or has committed certain criminal offenses;
or you are trying to enter without inspection; gold
or has entered the United States without authorization from an immigration officer.
If CBP believes that an LPR may be inadmissible or that it is no longer entitled to lawful permanent resident status, CBP must refer the alien for removal proceedings if a deferred inspection is not appropriate.
Special Rules for Dependents of the U.S. Military Spouses and children of service members of the US Armed Forces or civilian employees of the US government are exempt from many normal requirements for returning residents. If a dependent is a conditional resident and the period of conditional residence has expired, CBP must admit the person and recommend that they file Form I-751 within 90 days.