Some immigrants believe they can live abroad and keep their permanent resident status as long as they return to the United States at least once a year, but this assumption is incorrect. Travel to the United States once a year may not be sufficient to maintain your status. Permanent residents may travel outside the United States, and temporary or brief travel usually does not affect your permanent resident status. If you leave the country for too long or indicate in another way that you do not intend to make the United States your permanent home, the U.S. government may determine that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. This can also occur if you take a trip that is between six months and a year, if there is evidence that you did not intend to make the United States your permanent home.
You can use your Permanent Resident Card as a travel document for returning to the United States if you have not been abroad for a year or more. If you think you will be out of the United States for more than 12 months, you should apply for a re-entry permit before leaving the country by filing Form I-131, Application for a Travel Document. You must pay a fee to file Form I-131. You can get Form I-131 at uscis.gov or by calling the USCIS Forms Line at 1-800-870-3676.
A re-entry permit is valid for up to two years. At a port of entry, you may show the re-entry permit instead of a visa or Permanent Resident Card. Having a re-entry permit does not guarantee that you will be admitted to the United States when you return, but it can make it easier to show that you are returning from a temporary visit abroad. If you would like additional information about international travel as a permanent resident, please visit uscis.gov.
You should also be aware that—regardless of whether you might have abandoned your permanent resident status—you are subject to a full immigration inspection as an applicant for admission any time you have been abroad for at least 181 days, or in other situations specified in immigration law.