Many legal permanent residents (LPRs) learn to their chagrin that they have abandoned their status by remaining outside the U.S. too long. The general test for a returning LPR is that he or she must be returning after a “temporary visit abroad.” A trip is deemed temporary if it is “relatively short, fixed by some event” or will end at some point, marked by an event, that is likely to be of short duration. There is, however, another standard that is applied in the event a family or other emergency has caused the visit abroad to be extended. In this case, the standard is that the LPR must have held a “continuous, uninterrupted” intent to return during the entire extended stay.
The good news is that an LPR who must travel abroad and is concerned about the duration of the trip actually has two ways to mitigate this risk.
(1) Before traveling abroad. Prior to traveling abroad, an LPR can mitigate the risk by applying for an I-131, Application for Travel document. If approved, the LPR will receive a reentry permit which will smooth their path.
(2) Before returning to the U.S. An emergency would likely preclude the I-131 option. However, in this case the LPR can apply through the U.S. consulate for a DS-117 and SB-1 visa. This visa should allow the LPR to reenter.
So, do take seriously the threat of abandonment and consider using these two risk-mitigation options.