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Green Cards


Often a permanent resident has to stay abroad because he/she has to complete studies in a foreign university, or a parent may be suffering from a chronic illness, or because of the need to maintain or close a business the permanent resident has abroad. An extended stay of more than six months raises a presumption that the permanent resident has abandoned his/her permanent visa. What can be done to protect oneself in this type of case?

A Reentry Permit is the appropriate remedy because it permits a permanent resident to stay outside the U.S. for up to two years, thus it rebuts the presumption of abandonment. The Permit is not renewable abroad: a permanent resident must return to the U.S. and apply for a new Reentry Permit that will again validate a trip abroad for another two years. The Reentry Permit may also be used as a travel document, as for example, a Cuban without a valid passport may use the Reentry Permit as a substitute passport. The Reentry Permit is a remedy to keep the Department of Homeland Security from presuming that the holder solely because of a long duration of a stay abroad has abandoned permanent residence.


A foreign individual granted refugee status or asylum, may obtain a refugee travel document for a period of one year that may serve as a substitute for a passport. However, if the holder of this travel document returns to his country after obtaining refugee or asylum status, it may endanger his/her status in the U.S. It would result in an investigation for Immigration Service to reconsider the circumstances of the original approval of the refugee/asylum status, mainly to raise the issue of why the person went back to his/her country. The return to the country of origin would not necessarily result in a revocation of the refugee/asylum status, but it would raise an inquiry on the part of the Department of Homeland Security.


The Green Card or Permanent Resident Card now expires every 10 years, and then a new card may be applied for. Even though the green card (Form I-551) has expired, airlines have been notified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow the boarding of a lawful permanent resident card holder. If a permanent resident has filed for naturalization six months or more prior to the expiration of the green card, a new I-551 doesn’t need to be filed. However, if the naturalization application was filed within six months of the expiration of the green card, then the holder must apply for a new green card. If the I-551 has expired and the green card holder has a receipt for a new green card application, then the Immigration Officer at the port of arrival would ordinarily admit the green card holder even though the card has expired.


If a conditional resident is abroad and provided that not more than one year has elapsed since the conditional residence card has expired, the conditional resident may return to the U.S. provided he/she can show a receipt for having filed a Form I-751 (to make provisional residence permanent) within six months of the entry.

If a green card is lost it does not mean permanent residence is lost. The card is merely evidence of permanent residence. An appointment at the Immigration Service needs to be made and upon proper proof and a request for a new card, the Immigration will send the new card with a new photo, and stamp the passport to indicate the individual is a permanent resident which will then permit foreign travel. This stamp is usually valid for one year and may be renewed if the new green card has not yet arrived.

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