This article is from the FAQ, by with numerous contributions by others.
Before I answer that question, let me strongly recommend, in view of
the seriousness of issues involved, pleases consult competent counsel
regarding the specific facts of your case.
Overall, the answer is exceedingly complicated.
As a preliminary matter, please note that a permanent resident
alien has no statutory or other legal guarantee that assures him a
right to return if he is outside the United States. If he leaves
this country, even on a brief and temporary mission, he may be
unable to return unless he complies with the requirements of the
Since 1924, the immigration laws have provided for the
issuance of reentry permits to permanent residents of the United
States who wished to make temporary visits to foreign countries.
The reentry permit is one of the acceptable documents that may be
presented by aliens seeking to enter the United States.
Nevertheless, please note, a reentry permit does not infallibly
assure entry into the United States. At most, it is prima facie
evidence of the bearer's lawful status. The reentry permit is
equivalent to a visa and thus relieves its rightful holder from
other documentary requirements. The permit shows that the alien is
returning from a temporary visit abroad. But the statue emphasizes
that the reentry permit has no other effect under the immigration
The basic prerequisite for obtaining a reentry permit is that
the applicant prove that he has been lawfully admitted to the
United States for permanent residence. It must appear that he has
not abandoned his residence in the United States. He must
establish also that his application is made in good faith in
connection with a temporary visit abroad. The regulations provide
that the reentry permit be issued for a two-year period and not be
renewable. The two-year period runs from the date the permit is
issued and not from the date of the application.
During the period of its validity the permit can be used for any
number of reentries. Moreover, the reentry permit will be deemed
unexpired if its holder departs on a continuous trip to the United
States before its expiration. The permit must be surrendered to
the INS when its validity expires.
In order for you to maintain your permanent resident status,
it is required that your absence abroad must be temporary. The
inquiry revolves around whether an alien intended to retain his
permanent residence status by returning to the United States
"within a relatively short period of time." The term "temporary"
will vary with the facts and circumstances of each case; the
intention of the alien, when it can be ascertained, will control.
Moreover, the intention at the time of departure must be to return
within a relatively short period, fixed by some early event.
Among the factors ordinarily considered in determining whether
the absence was temporary are the duration of absence, the location
of the alien's family ties, property holdings, and job, and his
intention with respect to the location of his actual home. The
government is under no obligation to inform him that his absence
will terminate residence. Although the length of the alien's
absence is not the only factor, a lengthy absence coupled with
establishment of ties abroad may establish abandonment of resident
status. Another factor that may be considered is whether the
traveler had a definite reason for proceeding abroad temporarily.
A lengthy absence may, in certain circumstances, be
satisfactorily explained. Thus, where an alien's absence abroad
was due to his employment by an American company and he maintained
ties in the United States, and where his application to preserve
residence continuity for naturalization purposes had been approved,
the alien's lawful permanent residence status was not lost.
Moreover, loss of naturalized United States citizenship by voting
in a Mexican election during a visit there did not, by itself,
terminate status as a lawful permanent resident of the United
Some of the factors that have been examined in various decided
cases in this area are:
A. Length of residence in the U.S. since becoming a
permanent resident - generally, the longer you have
resided in the U.S., the stronger your case;
B. ownership of real estate in the U.S.;
C. whether or not U.S. income tax returns have been filed
during the time of absence. In this regard, please note,
YOU MUST NOT FILE INCOME TAX RETURNS AS A NON-RESIDENT.
Please consult with a CPA or tax professional as to what
other options exist.
D. How many prior reentry permits have been granted to the
I recommend the following specific measures in addition to the
material provided above:
A. If you own real estate in the U..S. - do not sell it
prior to departure;
B. Maintain your main savings account in the U.S.
C. Continue to maintain your drivers license and all credit
D. Pay U.S. taxes as a resident
E. Maintain correspondence with all your friends and family
in the U.S.
F. Keep all your telephone bills showing various calls to
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. The rule of common