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I have had a green card since 2013. I left the United States on the 2nd of January. I have both German and Iranian citizenship. I was in Iran in August 2016.

Can I return to the United States without a problem?

And when, at the latest, can I go back to the USA?

closed as off-topic by JonathanReez, mts, David Richerby, JoErNanO, Revetahw Sep 26 '16 at 11:24

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  • I added a "residency" tag because as I am aware a US green card is basically a kind of residency. But I'm not an expert so please discuss if it's not so. – hippietrail Sep 26 '16 at 3:28
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    @hippietrail The "green card" is issued to permanent residents. It is so named because early versions were green. The current version is also green, but they haven't always been. – Michael Hampton Sep 26 '16 at 3:33
  • @MichaelHampton: Cool. So for now I don't think we need a new tag since this is exactly what the 'resideney' tag is designed for. Thanks! – hippietrail Sep 26 '16 at 3:36
  • Are you still a US permanent resident? Why did you leave the US? Why are you coming back? – JoErNanO Sep 26 '16 at 10:55
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    (1) the actual answer is, you will be looked at extremely closely. (The US keeps going to war with both your home countries!) Get ready for it. (2) "And when, at the latest" there is no specific rule or date, it's a judgement call. – Fattie Sep 26 '16 at 14:13
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Away from the U.S. less than 180 days, no problem. Between 180 days and a year, maybe a problem. More than a year, definitely a problem.

You should plan to return home (the U.S. is your home, right?) before the 1 year mark, and be prepared to explain why you were away so long and show evidence that you have not abandoned your residency.

It's important to note that CBP might try to pressure you into signing an I-407, which essentially is you admitting that you've abandoned your residency. You do not have to sign this - as an LPR you have the right to be admitted or paroled into the country pending a court hearing where you and your lawyer can show that you did not intend to abandon your U.S. residence.

Then again, it's reasonably likely that you'll be admitted without any hassle (it all depends on the CBP inspector and what she had for breakfast that morning) so try not to worry too much.

References: The legislation, regulations, policies and case law in this area are rather complicated and easy to misinterpret, and IANAAILAL. However, the 180 day threshold comes from INA § 101(a)(13)(C)(ii), after which an LPR alien is "regarded as seeking admission". The 1 year threshold comes from 8 CFR § 211.1(a)(2), after which an SB-1 returning resident visa is needed, which is not easy to get. Further discussions: 1 2 3

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    While I like this answer, what source can you provide to support this "less than 6 months; between 6 months and a year, more than a year" rule of thumb? – Pierre Arlaud Sep 26 '16 at 8:13
  • @PierreArlaud I've added some sources, but beware - it's a bit of a minefield. – pericynthion Sep 26 '16 at 17:21
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The USCIS Maintaining Permanent Residency does not give any timelines on when they would consider someone to have abandoned their permanent residency status in the US.

Some items that could cause that include taking up residency in another country, not filing tax returns, not maintaining a residence (house/apartment) in the USA, etc.

Another USCIS page, International travel as a permanent resident states that brief travel is fine, but as a general guideline, being outside the USA for over a year will cause them to a look at the circumstances of the travel and whether you have abandoned your permanent resident status. As already stated, items that can you can use to prove that you haven't abandoned your status are keeping US employment, address, ties to family and friends in the US, and so on.

One way to show that you do not plan to abandon permanent residency is to apply for a re-entry permit/travel document before you leave the US, Form I-131.

An extended absence from the USA may also mean that you cannot count that time when applying for citizenship, so it may delay your citizenship application.

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    I love that first link. "You maintain permanent resident status until you [...] lose or abandon your status." Gee, I thought I could maintain my status even after losing it! – Mehrdad Sep 26 '16 at 9:21
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    @Mehrdad It's offiicalese for "until we take it from you or you give it up." Though that's still something of a tautology. – David Richerby Sep 26 '16 at 10:17
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AIUI the new rules on Iranian citizenship and visits only pertain to VWP travel. They should not be an issue for permanent residents.

The bigger problem is that by spending too much time outside the US or by taking up residence abroad you may be deemed to have abandoned your permanent residence. According to http://www.familytousa.com/reentry-permit/ there is an automatic cutoff after one year unless extra paperwork is filed but in some circumstances even a year may be too much.

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    As I understand it, the loss of status is not automatic. You can still try to show you had a good reason for being away, though you might have a harder time of it if you haven't applied for the reentry permit. – phoog Sep 25 '16 at 18:22
  • "there is an automatic cutoff after one year" You are not "deemed to have abandoned your permanent residence" after one year or any amount of time -- rather, the green card (I-551) is a valid document for entry only after an absence of less than one year. (If you have a re-entry permit, it is valid for entry for the duration of its validity, which is 2 years.) After one year (and without a re-entry permit) you simply don't have a document valid for re-entry, but your permanent residency isn't lost until you give it up or an immigration court takes it away from you. – user102008 Sep 30 '16 at 2:34
  • ... So if you try to enter after an absence of one year, first, the officer has discretion to let you enter anyway. Or, if they deny you entry (which they can do for less than or more than 1 year, but more likely for more than 1 year), they will ask you to voluntarily give up your green card, and if you refuse, they will have to put you into removal proceedings in immigration court. You remain a permanent resident until the immigration court takes it away from you and removes you (if they do that). If the court rules in your favor then you will remain a permanent resident. – user102008 Sep 30 '16 at 2:36

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