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I went to Italy for a year and a half. I had a good reason to stay so long but I can't stay here anymore. My husband is in the US. He's a citizen.

Can I go back with an expired visa? Should I chance it? Do they really know if I've been away for over a year? Is it just a NTA and I can still get in? Or should I get an ESTA to get back in to see my husband? As a LPR can I even get an ESTA? I'm getting a ticket at the end of this month. I've been a resident since 1970s. Anyone actually work at the CBP that knows the protocol?

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You should not apply for ESTA unless you intend to abandon your permanent residence. If you do not want to abandon your permanent residence, you can apply for a returning resident visa (thanks to Traveller for the link).

If you do intend to abandon your permanent residence, I believe you can do that either with a consular officer at the consulate or embassy, or with an immigration officer at the border.

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