U.S. Immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. Remaining outside the United States for more than 12 months may result in a loss of lawful permanent resident status. For detailed information, please review maintaining permanent residence and international travel as a permanent resident on the USCIS website.
Immigrants who hold permanent resident status (with the exception of U.S.Government personnel including military and direct-hire civil service employees, their spouses and minor children) and reside outside of the United States for more than 12 months without prior approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must obtain a new immigrant visa to return to the United States. Prior approval from USCIS consists of a re-entry permit which can only be applied for in the United States. For more details on applying for a reentry permit please visit the USCIS website.
A former immigrant who has lost permanent resident status and desires to return to the United States as an immigrant must obtain a new immigrant visa based on either an approved immigrant petition or returning resident status. A U.S. relative (spouse, parent, adult son/daughter, or sibling) or U.S. employer may file an immigrant petition on behalf of the former immigrant.
The second way is for the immigrant to apply for returning resident status. An application for returning resident status requires evidence of the applicant’s continuing, unbroken ties to the United States, that the stay outside the United States was truly beyond the applicant’s control and that the intent of the applicant was to always return to the United States. Evidence may consist of continuous compliance with U.S. tax law, ownership of property and assets in the United States and maintenance of U.S. licenses and memberships. Having U.S. relatives, attending school overseas or stating an intent to return is generally insufficient.
Expired/Expiring Green Card
If you are outside the United States and your green card will expire within six months (but you will return within one year of your departure from the United States and before the card expires), you should file for your renewal card as soon as you return to the United States.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), if you have one of the following items, a boarding foil is not required*:
- An expired Permanent Resident Card with a 10-year expiration date
- An expired Permanent Resident Card (with a two-year validity), and a Form I-797, Notice of Action, indicating that status is extended. If you have an expired Green Card with a 2-year expiration date AND a Form I-797, Notice of Action, showing that they have filed a Form I-751 or Form I-829 to remove the conditions on their permanent resident status, the Form I-797 extends the validity of the card for a specified length of time, generally one year.
- Orders from the U.S. government (civilian or military) showing that time outside the Unites States was on official government business.
- A valid Reentry Permit
*Air carriers in Ghana may have different policies and requirements for boarding than those provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Individuals should consult their air carrier for more information.