Congratulations, you've obtained your green card! Now you have to follow the requirements to keep it. In addition to the immigration consequences of criminal activity, the amount of time you reside outside of the U.S. can affect your permanent resident status.
What does it mean to "abandon" lawful permanent residence?
The basic rule is that if you are outside of the U.S. continuously for 365 days or more, you have automatically abandoned your permanent residence. Upon flying back to the U.S., a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) official can confiscate your greencard and either send you back home, allow you to make your case to retain residence before an Immigration Judge, or offer you the option of surrendering your green card in exchange for a tourist visa entry.
Even if you enter the U.S. at least once per year, CBP can review your passport to determine whether you actually live here. If you have made subsequent trips abroad lasting six months or more, or your passport shows very short duration of stays in the U.S., DHS can "presume" that you have abandoned residence. In this instance, they are required to allow you the opportunity to rebut this presumption with evidence of your ongoing residence in U.S.
The Re-Entry Permit
If you know that you will remain abroad for extended periods as a permanent resident, the Re-Entry Permit is an excellent solution to avoid the above scenarios. A permanent resident can apply on Form I-131, and must file and appear for biometrics with USCIS before departing the U.S. If a re-entry permit is approved, it allows the permanent resident to remain abroad continuously for the two year period of approval, with no consequence as long as they re-enter the U.S. within the alloted time.
Note: Extended stays abroad can also affect an LPR's eligibility for Naturalization. The re-entry permit does not preserve eligibility for naturalization purposes.
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