If you are a green card holder and plan to obtain US citizenship in the future, then you should adhere to the following requirements:
- You must be in the United States for at least 180 days a year;
- To apply for obtaining citizenship you must have lived in the United States for at least 30 months in the last 5 years.
If you are absent from the United States for more than a year, it equates to an automatic loss of green card. If you have been absent from the United States for more than 6 months, but less than a year, then at the place of the US border crossing you will need to prove to the officer that you are permanently residing in the United States, justifying your long absence. But if you were absent from the United States for less than 6 months a year, then you will not have any problems with returning to the United States.
If you had to return to your homeland for family reasons and stay there for a period longer than the established one, then you will have to prepare evidence upon your return to the United States. In this case, you violated the requirements of the green cardholder. Let’s say you had to care for a sick close relative. In this case, you need to provide certificates from the hospital, as well as proof that there was no one to care for the patient besides you. But, even despite all your arguments and facts, you are in violation of the established period of stay outside the United States. Therefore, this situation will no longer depend on you, but on the decision of the officer at the checkpoint.
However, there is a special immigration permit that can be obtained for temporary residence outside the United States and maintaining a valid green card or resident status. It is called reentry permit and is usually valid for a maximum of two years. But after two years, the green card holder can apply for a new permit. However, many green card holders are unaware of this immigration re-entry permit and are unaware that they will lose their green card when leaving the United States.
Re-entry permits are only available to green card holders intending to return to the United States before their re-entry permit expires. SB-1 visa applicants must prove eligibility for an immigrant visa and undergo a medical examination. The SB-1 visa application process includes the payment of visa processing fees as well as medical fees.
If the green card holder is temporarily outside the United States and his trip is extended for certain special reasons beyond the control of the green card holder and for which he is not responsible (for example, an accident, a relatively serious illness), then he may apply for a Special Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1) prior to returning to the United States. Approval of this visa will retain green card status and is available to lawful permanent residents who have stayed outside the United States for more than one year.