Ask the Consul – March 2023

Common questions asked by Green Card Holders when they travel outside of the United States


This edition of Ask the Consul addresses common questions asked by Green Card Holders when they travel outside of the United States.

Q: I’m a U.S. legal permanent resident, and I would like to know how long can I stay outside the United States and not lose my status as a resident?
A: According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), permanent residents are free to travel outside the United States, and temporary or brief travel usually does not affect their permanent resident status.  But if it is determined that you did not (or no longer) intend to make the United States your permanent home, USCIS may determine that you have abandoned your permanent resident status.  A general guide used is whether you have been absent from the United States for more than one (1) year.

Abandonment of legal permanent residence in the United States may be found to occur in trips of less than a year if it is believed that you no longer intend to make the United States your permanent residence.

Q: How do I demonstrate that it was not my intention to abandon my U.S. permanent resident status?
A: USCIS may consider a range of evidence in determining whether your intention was to visit abroad only temporarily, including evidence of:

  • family and community ties in the United States;
  • U.S. employment;
  • a U.S. mailing address;
  • an active U.S. bank account;
  • a valid U.S. driver’s license;
  • property or business ownership in the United States;
  • U. S. income tax returns filed as a U.S. resident; and
  • any other significant and verifiable evidence to establish the temporary nature of your absence.

Q: What if my trip abroad will last longer than 1 year?
A:  If you plan on being absent from the United States for longer than a year, first apply for a reentry permit through USCIS on Form I-131. This must be done prior to your departure from the United States. Obtaining a reentry permit prior to leaving the United States allows a permanent or conditional permanent resident to return to the United States during the permit’s 2-year validity without the need to obtain a returning resident visa from the U.S. Embassy.

Q: I came to Guyana, and I stayed here longer than one year, but I do not want to lose my green card.  What can I do?
A: If you traveled and stayed outside the United States for longer than one year, without an approved re-entry permit from USCIS, you can consider applying for a returning resident visa (SB-1) at the Embassy.  Under provisions of immigration law, to qualify for returning resident status, you will need to prove to the Consular Officer that you:

  • Had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departure from the United States;
  • Departed from the United States with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention; and
  • Are returning to the United States from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.

Please refer to the Embassy’s website for further details and application instructions:

Q: I traveled to Guyana and my green card is now lost/stolen.  What can I do to return to the United States?
A: The Embassy is unable to issue a replacement Green Card. If you have lost your Green Card and you have been out of the U.S. for less than 12 months, the Visa Unit may be able to issue you a Boarding Foil which would allow you to return to the United States. Once in the U.S, you should apply for a replacement Green Card.

The USCIS processing fee for this service is USD$575 and must be paid online directly to USCIS prior to your appointment to apply for a boarding foil at the Embassy. See the full application instructions at

Q: I traveled to Guyana and just realized my Green Card is expired. Can I renew it at the Embassy?
A: The U.S. Embassy is unable to process Green Card renewals. This is a function of USCIS in the United States. If you have an expired permanent resident card with a 10-year validity period, you do not need a boarding foil to return to the U.S. The airline may board you with the expired card, providing you meet all their other conditions for travel. If your expired card did not have a 10-year validity, and you have been out of the U.S. for less than 12 months, you may follow the instructions to apply for a boarding foil as explained above.


“Ask the Consul” is a monthly column from the U.S. Embassy answering questions about U.S. immigration law and visa issues. Detailed information about visas and travel can be viewed at, and Applicants are strongly encouraged to prepare their own documents and avoid third-party advice. U.S. Consular rules change frequently, and non-US government advisors often provide inadequate or inaccurate information. Please contact our Visa Information Service Center on toll free numbers: 1-877-246-6788 or 703-988-5765 if you have general visa questions.”