US Permanent Residents

US Permanent Residents are often referred to as “green card” holders. US Permanent Residents enjoy many of the same benefits as US citizens except that they are subject to certain grounds of deportation and are unable to vote in certain elections.

The other major difference between US citizens and Permanent Residents is how they are treated when they leave the US for long periods. In general, it is very difficult for a US citizen to lose their American citizenship by the mere fact that he or she is no longer living in the US. See the link on loss of US citizenship for more information.

Abandonment of Permanent Residency

In contrast, Permanent Residents are at risk of losing their permanent residency status by default if they are absent from the US for more than a year. To avoid this, Permanent Residents who move outside the US temporarily may maintain their permanent residency status if they file an application for a Re-entry Permit prior to leaving the US.

If a Permanent Resident is absent from the United States for a protracted period of time (usually more than one year) and they attempt to re-enter the US, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer at a US port-of-entry may find that the individual’s Permanent Residency status has been abandoned. Returning to the US periodically does not guarantee that a person will keep their Permanent Residency status. Usually, if a Permanent Resident maintains a US residence, drivers licence and files tax returns as a Permanent Resident, it may be found that he or she has maintained their Permanent Residency status.

A Permanent Resident may also formally abandon permanent residency status at a US Embassy or Consulate outside the United States.

Returning Resident Visa (SB-1 Visa)

If a Permanent Resident has been outside the US for more than a year he or she may be able to re-enter the US under a Returning Resident visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. A Returning Resident visa requires that Permanent Residents demonstrate that they left the United States with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention. If the Permanent Resident was outside the US for a lengthy amount of time, the applicant will be required to show that he or she was unable to return to the US for reasons beyond his or her control for which he or she was not responsible.