A lawful permanent resident (commonly known as a green card holder), can travel outside of the United States and return without incident. However, there are a few key exceptions that can contribute to your loss of permanent residency in the United States.
If you travel outside of the United States and remain overseas for more than 1 year (12 months), your permanent resident card becomes technically invalid. What does this mean? It means you may not be allowed into the United States if you try to come in using your green card after spending a year or more abroad. Similarly, if you take up residence in another country, even if the stay is shorter than one year, your permanent resident card may also be considered abandoned.
In order to avoid ever losing your permanent resident card, if you have any indication that you may be outside of the United States for more than one year, you should hire an immigration lawyer to help you get a re-entry permit. If you are not sure how long you will spend outside of the United States, get a re-entry permit to be safe.
The re-entry permit must be signed and submitted while you are in the United States.
What is the purpose of the re-entry permit and how does this help you if you have plans for extended travel? The permit establishes that you do not intend to abandon your status as a permanent resident. The re-entry permit can last up to two years and it is a great tool to use in avoiding loss your permanent residency.
Re-entry permits are also commonly called "White Passports" because many countries allow you to use a re-entry permit much like you would use a passport, it is often used to place visas and entry and exit stamps. Check with the country that issued your passport to check if you can use the re-entry permit in this way.
If you take proper precautions, you will not find yourself surprisingly loosing your immigration status in the United States. The re-entry permit petition process is not overly burdensome or expensive and should be considered for those that plan to travel extensively outside of the United States.