There is a misconception about a resident’s ability to travel while holding a visa in the United States. Most people believe that once you are in America, you are not allowed to leave U.S. soil or else your visa may be at risk.
The truth is that permeant residents are free to travel abroad as long as they have a valid, unexpired visa. There are only a few questions residents should ask before buying their next plane ticket.
What do I need to travel outside the U.S.?
There are several documents residents need to be able to exit and enter the states after the travel, and the pieces include:
1. A valid form of identification – examples include a passport from your country of citizenship, refugee travel document, foreign national I.D. card or a U.S. Driver’s License.
2. A valid green card or permanent resident card – if the visa is expired, it will be difficult to reenter the country upon your return.
Returning to the states from a trip is similar to reentering the country for any other reason. You will need all your proper documentation and answer any questions about your travels. For example, an officer may ask about the intention or length of your trips. They may even question whether you maintained ties to the U.S. or maintained employment during your travels.
Does the length of the trip matter?
Brief vacations typically do not matter regarding your residency. However, there are circumstances that if you stayed out of the states for more than a year. The process will be complicated with longer trips – especially regarding your ties to America.
To help the process, you can file a form I-131 which allows permanent residents to return to the US during the permit’s validity without another returning resident visa. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a returning resident visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
As stated, brief trips won’t affect your residency in America, but trips over six months may affect your ability to apply for naturalization. If you have concerns about how your upcoming vacation impacts your chances at citizenship, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.