Skip to main content

Minimum required time in US for green card holders

Santa Cruz, CA |

My wife and I are trying to find out what is the minimum amount of time a green card holder must spend in the USA. She has been a green card holder for over 15 years.
We maintain a home there, pay taxes, 20 years now. Have a car, pay exorbitant health insurance. We are out of the country for 6 months or more a year although never consecutively. Generally we are never out of the country for more than 3 months, 4 max.
She has received a bit of static from officials recently when entering the US and is worried she may be denied entry one of these days.
Is there a minimum amount of time that she/we must stay in the USA to remain legal?

Attorney Answers 2

  1. I believe the core question you are asking is "can your wife lose your green card privileges?" The answer is, unfortunately, possibly yes.

    Your wife's green card was issued to allow her to live and work in the United States. The government's position is that a green card is not to be used as an enhanced tourist visa. It is not uncommon for green card holders to return to their county (or other countries) for a visit, staying longer than planned—and end up losing their green card privileges.

    Typically a green card holder who has been abroad for more than a year may face questioning by an immigration officer when returning to the U.S. The answers to those questions may lead to immigration removal proceedings on the grounds of having abandoned their permanent residence status.

    It is important to remember that as a permanent resident, you must actually intend to live and work in the U.S. Knowing this it is important not to remain outside the U.S. for extended periods of time and risking the government’s concluding your intending to abandoning you lawful permanent residence status.

    How Long an Absence is Too Long?
    Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer. Many people believe staying outside the country for one year will trigger issues of abandonment of their green card, but this is not actually true. The law does not in fact specify a particular period of absence. While it is true that the one year rule is a good benchmark, it is important to understand that one’s absence from the U.S. for less than one year may lead to a finding of abandonment while another's absence of more than one year may not.

    The reason for this is that the law actually looks to one’s intent rather than a specific period of absence. That said, an absence of one year or more would certainly be a factor in considering whether or not a green card holder had the intent to abandon his or her permanent residence status. The key to avoiding or prevailing on the abandonment issues then turns to establishing that the absence was for a temporary visit only and that there was no intent to abandon lawful permanent residence status. The actual time spent abroad is but one factor, albeit an important one, in determining one’s intent.

    Factors in Determining Abandonment of One’s Green Card
    In avoiding and/or defending a charge of abandonment of green card privileges, it then becomes important to know some factors the government will consider in determining one’s intention:

    Temporary Purpose of Trip Abroad
    Family Ties in the U.S.
    Maintaining a Home in the U.S
    Financial Ties in the U.S. (.e.g., bank account, real property)

    You wife may wish to become a US citizen if and when she is eligible to help avoid these problems. You may also be interested in the following:

    Best of luck,

    Peter J. Loughlin, Esq.
    Goldman & Loughlin, PLLC
    4100 Corporate Sq., Suite 163
    Naples, FL 34104
    Representing Clients in All 50 States
    239-643-5529 - Free Consulation

    Note: The above answer is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion. One should not act or refrain to act solely based on the information provided. No attorney client relationship is created unless a retainer is signed by the attorney and the client.

  2. Why doesn't she apply for her citizenship? If she becomes a US citizen she will not be required to justfiy trips outside of the US or be subject to any time limitations. The limitations on GC holders involve both aggregate periods of time and single stays. Generally, stays outside of the US for less than 6 months should not impact the GC status.

Tax law topics

Top tips from attorneys

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer

Browse all legal topics