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May 4, 2009: Is a Reentry Permit Needed?

Is a Reentry Permit Needed?

I am a green card holder and I recently just returned from a 6 month trip to Ghana. I did not apply for a re-entry permit because I was not going to leave the country for more than a year. When I got to the US, the customs officer told me that if I plan to leave again for a long time I should apply for a re-entry permit or I can have my green card taken away from me. I came back out of sheer luck because I had to attend a wedding as I had no idea about any rule pertaining to being out for more than 180 days each year. I will be traveling out of the country this week.

Am I allowed to travel this week for a couple days out of the country? Will I be in danger of not being allowed back into the country because I was already out for 6 months? I have been in the US for more than 15 years so I am eligible to apply for naturalization and I also don’t want that to be affected either. Thank you!
— Anonymous

The main issue that needs to be addressed is whether you abandoned your green card status when you remained outside the United States for more than 180 days. It appears that the customs officer did not think you abandoned it because the officer admitted you into the United States. If the officer was unsure of whether you intended to abandon your residency, he probably would have deferred your inspection and required you to bring in documentation to prove that you permanently reside in the United States.

Many green card holders know when they make travel plans to go abroad how long they will be staying outside the United States. If the traveler knows that the stay will last more than 180 days, it is a good idea to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, several months in advance of the intended date of departure. Though it is impossible to predict what will actually happen when you apply to re-enter the United States, since the officer warned you about the dangers of traveling for a long time and you are only planning to travel for a few days, you should not have a problem re-entering after this trip.

As for your eligibility for citizenship, you are not eligible for the benefit if you have a trip that lasted more than 180 days outside the United States and it occurred within the five year period immediately preceding the filing of your application. Furthermore, you must be able to demonstrate that you were physically present in the United States 30 out of 60 months immediately preceding the filing of your application. Of course there are many other requirements under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that governs applicants’ eligibility for naturalization.

It may be wise for you to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss with you all of your goals and all of your options.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys

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