A green card comes with several distinct benefits and rights as you settle into the United States as your long-term home. After all, your permanent legal resident status allows you to live and work in the US, not to mention enjoy full protection under the laws of the nation. But while these benefits are clear, something that remains unclear to many is whether or not you can travel with a green card and if so, what kinds of green card rules and limitations apply to travel. And if you’ve been wondering the same thing, you’ve landed on the right article. At SimpleCitizen, our mission is to simplify every aspect of the green card process, including how to use your green card once you have it. In this article, we’ll discuss traveling outside the US with a green card, the documentation you will need, and how traveling abroad will affect your chances at naturalization. Let’s get started!
Can I Travel With a Green Card?Of course you can! However, traveling with a green card requires certain documents and steps you must take to ensure you can return once your travels are complete. There are two primary documents you will need to travel abroad: 1. Your Green Card and; 2. A passport from your country of citizenship or your refugee travel document permitting travel to the foreign country. Sometimes, countries require visas and as such, you must have this in hand as well for entry/exit purposes. When you’re ready to return to the United States, you only need to present your valid green card, Form I-551, at the port of entry. Sometimes, officials will request to see your passport or other identifying documentation to grant you reentry into the country.
What Steps Do I Need to Take Before Traveling?If you’re planning on traveling abroad for less than one year, there are no additional steps you must take in preparation for your trip. In fact, all you need are the documents mentioned above to ensure you can leave and return to the US. If you’re planning on traveling for more than one year, there are additional steps you must take before leaving the country. This is because you must demonstrate that you aren’t abandoning your permanent resident status and are planning to return to reside in the United States once again.
For Trips More Than One Year in LengthShould your trip be more than one year, it’s beneficial to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, prior to leaving. This Form allows a permanent resident to apply for a Reentry Permit for admission to the United States after returning from abroad. Doing so eliminates the need for a returning resident visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate and clarifies your intention to return to America after your travels. Obtaining a Reentry Permit costs $360 plus a biometrics service fee of $85 if you are between the ages of 14 and 79, making the total fee $445. Please note that the Reentry Permit doesn’t guarantee your admittance to the country. While it will help, officials will also consider factors such as:
- Have you maintained family and community ties in the U.S. while abroad?
- Have you filed your U.S. income taxes as a resident?
- Have you maintained a U.S. mailing address?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license in the U.S.?
- Do you own property or run your own business in the U.S.?
- Have you applied for U.S. Citizenship?
For Trips More Than Two Years in LengthIf you’re planning on remaining outside of the United States for more than two years, a Reentry Permit granted before your departure will no longer be valid when you return (these Permits are only valid for two years). As such, you should apply for a Returning Resident Visa, SB-1, at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You should apply for this Visa at least three months in advance of your travel (or as soon as possible) to ensure it can be processed in time. To apply for the Visa, you will need:
- A completed Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status;
- Form I-551, Your Permanent Resident Card (green card);
- Your Reentry Permit (if you have obtained one);
- Dates of travel outside the US (airline tickets, passport stamps, etc.);
- Proof of ties to the United States (like those indicated in the section above); and
- Proof that your stay outside of the United States is for reasons beyond your control (medical reasons, employment with a U.S. company, etc.).