How to Reinstate your Green Card After Staying Aboard for a Long Period

Have you been out of the US for over 1 year? Many of us may be subject to green card abandonment without even knowing it! 

During the pandemic, many green card holders had no choice but to stay out of the US for an extended period. In this case, you may be facing a difficult decision - whether to abandon your green card or not. 
How to Reinstate your Green Card After Staying Aboard for a Long Period

What are the key consequences of green card abandonment?

Other than losing your permanent residency and being required to restart the green card application all over again, here are a couple of other consequences:
  • Watch out for "Exit tax"! - IRS may treat your assets as sold for market value on the day you lose your status. While you are still the owner of the assets, you may be subject to some additional taxes.
  • You will not be able to sponsor any family members to visit the US and any sponsored applications for your family may be suspended or cancelled. 

How to avoid Green Card abandonment

Luckily, you may apply for Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, aka a re-entry permit! 

A re-entry permit allows permanent US residents to travel outside the country for more than 12 months without losing their permanent residency status. This permit is usually valid for 2 years and can be applied for as many times as possible.

Why do you need this re-entry permit? This permit is to show USCIS that you still have a very strong intention to come back to the US and maintain your permanent residency status.

If you are out of the country for a long time period (over 12 months), you may be given a warning by a Custom and Border Protection (CBP) when you try to re-enter the US with your current unexpired green card. So it's suggested to apply for Form I-407 before you leave the US when you know that you would be outside of the US for more than 1 year. 

What if I am already out of the US for over 1 year and didn't apply for Form I-407?

How to reinstate your Green Card after abandonment

You can reinstate your green card at the US Embassy or Consulate near your current location abroad. An interview will be required. You will need to submit documents to prove that:

  • When you departed the US, you had a valid green card. You will need to present your valid permanent resident card and other supporting documents
  • Your overstaying outside the country is due to circumstances beyond your control. For example, medical reasons or employment, or even other family affair. 
  • You left the US with an intention to come back - meaning you didn't mean to abandon your status. You may be required to submit your US income tax return records. 
  • You may also show that you have properties, investments and/or other close relatives int he US. Bank accounts and other assets may also support your true intentions. 
Check with your US embassy or consulate at your current country when you apply for the reinstatement. Every case can be different but here are a few key documents for the green card reinstatement application:
  • DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status 
  • Your existing I-551, Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • Re-entry permit if applicable 
  • Documents to prove the date you traveled outside the US, such as your flight tickets or passport stamps
  • Your recent US tax returns
  • Other supporting documents such as evidence of family and social ties to the US
I hope this article helps! Come back to learn more about immigration applications.

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