This is a tricky question. There is NO set period. The test is this: what are your ties to the U.S. and is your intention to matain those ties and return to the U.S. (In legalese where is your intended place for residence). In a case a person was allowed to return as an LPR after more than 7 year outside BUT THIS IS more the exception that the rule. These are the point to look at. 1) After six months you have stopped accruing time for citizenship and your period restarts. 2) Do present a Form I-131 - reentry document. This will allow you to legally remain outside of the U.S. for two years and will shorten the Citizenship period from 5 to 4 years. In short I would not remain outside for more than 1 year without having ties to the U.S. and if you are then file a reentry permit. Good Luck
A “green card,” or rather, a lawful permanent residence card is issued to allow holders to live and work in the United States. It is not uncommon for green card holders to return to their county for a visit, staying longer than planned—and end up losing their green card privileges—even in situations such as yours.
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.
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 your 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 you had the intent to abandon your permanent residence status. The key to avoiding or to prevailing on the abandonment issue then turns to establishing that the absence was for a temporary visit only and that there was no intent to abandon your lawful permanent residence status. The actual time spent abroad is but one factor, albeit an important one, in determining your intent.
Factors in Determining Abandonment of Your Green Card
In avoiding and/or defending a charge of abandonment of green card privileges, it then becomes important for you to know some factors the government will consider in determining your intention:
• Temporary Purpose of Your Stay Abroad
• Family Ties in the U.S.
• Maintaining a Home Residence in the U.S
• Financial Ties in the U.S. (.e.g., bank account, real property)
Although it is too late now, you might have filed for a reentry permit before you departed the United States. That said, even if you had done this, obtaining a reentry permit is not an absolute guaranty that you would not be challenged with abandonment of permanent residence, but rather makes it less likely. You should always be prepared to demonstrate as many of the factors described above should you be faced with defending your green card status.
Bottom line, you may be able to overcome the charge of abandonment but I think you will need detailed evidence your intent not to abandon your status.
For purposes of Naturalization ONLY -- Once you have remained outside of the United States for more than one year you break the continuity of residence for naturalization purposes and must wait 4 years and a day to apply for naturalization, or 2 years and a day if they obtained permanent residence by marriage to a U.S. Citizen. (See 8 CFR 316.5(c)(1)(ii)) (Subject to physical presence and residency rules).
This answer is for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.