Monday, May 27, 2024

Why You Should Never Travel Abroad Without a Green Card


Travelling abroad can be an exciting experience, but ensuring you have all the necessary documents to make your trip hassle-free without legal issues is important. If you are a green card holder, one of the most important documents you should have before travelling is your green card. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why you should not travel abroad without a green card and the potential consequences of doing so.why you should not travel abroad without a green card

What is a Green Card and Why is it Important?

Understanding the concept of a green card

A green card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, is an identification document that proves your status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States. It grants you the right to live and work in the country permanently. Obtaining a green card is significant for many immigrants as it offers various benefits and opportunities.

Benefits of having a green card

Having a green card provides numerous benefits. It allows you to live, work, and study in the United States without any restrictions. You can enjoy the same rights and privileges as U.S. citizens, except for voting in federal elections. A green card also gives you the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting certain eligibility requirements, such as continuous residence and good moral character.

Who can apply for a Green Card?

There are multiple ways to qualify for a Green Card and become a permanent resident of the U.S. The following categories are the most common:

Family-based immigration: If you have family members who are green card holders, you may be able to sponsor them for an immigrant visa or green card through family-based immigration.

Employment-based immigration: If you have skills needed by U.S. employers, you may be able to obtain an employment-based green card through labor certification or employer sponsorship.

Refugee and asylum status: If you are fleeing persecution in your home country due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, you may be eligible for refugee permanent resident status or asylum in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Eligibility for Green Card

You may be eligible for a green card if you are a:

1. Living lawfully as a permanent resident in the United States.

2. Persons married to a U.S. citizen, or unmarried child under 21 years of age, of a U.S. citizen age 21 or older who live in the United States.

3. Returning resident who has been out of the country for less than a year.

4. Lawful permanent resident who has been employed abroad by the U.S government or U.S.-based company and is returning to the U.S.; or who has been employed abroad by a foreign government and is returning to the U.S., pursuant to an executive order or statute that permits such employment in the United States; or who is returning from temporary duty as a member of the armed forces outside the country

5. In rare cases, persons who have served in the armed forces during certain periods and have performed honourable service may be eligible for naturalisation without being required to reside in the United States prior to applying for naturalisation.

Requirements for Green Card Applications

If you are eligible for a green card, you can apply for one using Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. You must also submit supporting documents that prove your relationship with your U.S. citizen spouse and your own identity, including:

  • Birth certificate;
  • Marriage certificate;
  • Divorce certificate (if previously married);
  • Police clearance certificates (from all countries in which you have lived since age 16);
  • Medical examination/vaccination records; and
  • Other documents as required by USCIS.

Can Green Card Holders Travel Abroad?

travel abroad without a green card

Traveling with a green card

Yes, green card holders can travel abroad. However, there are certain requirements and considerations to keep in mind to ensure a smooth travel experience. If you plan to travel outside the United States, it is recommended to always carry your green card with you. Your green card serves as proof of your lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.

Requirements for traveling outside the United States

Before travelling, green card holders are advised to check the destination country’s entry requirements. Some countries may require a visa for entry, while others may allow visa-free travel for a certain period. Researching and understanding the visa requirements and restrictions of the country you plan to visit is essential.

While it is not mandatory to present a green card when departing the U.S., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will require you to present your green card when returning.

Do You Need a Visa to Travel Outside the United States?

Understanding the visa requirements for travel

Visa requirements vary depending on your destination country and your nationality. As a green card holder, you may enjoy certain visa-free travel benefits to a limited number of countries. However, for most countries, you will need to check if a visa is required and apply accordingly.

Travelling without a visa as a green card holder

While green card holders have certain travel privileges, it is important to note that owning a green card does not exempt you from the visa requirements of other countries. Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding entry for foreign nationals, and it is crucial to understand and comply with those requirements.

Consequences of travelling abroad without a visa

Travelling without the necessary visa can result in denied entry or deportation from the destination country. It can also lead to difficulties when trying to return to the United States. Always do proper investigation to be clear on the visa requirements of the country that you plan to visit as a proactive measure to averting potential issues that would otherwise arise. 

statue of liberty permanent residence and us citizen dreams

How to Apply for a Green Card Travel Document

Overview of the green card travel document

If you are a green card holder planning to travel abroad, you may need to apply for a green card travel document. The travel document, also known as a re-entry permit or refugee travel document, allows you to reenter the United States after temporary international travel without the need for a returning resident visa.

Steps to apply for a green card travel document

To apply for a green card travel document, you must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The application process involves submitting the required documents, including your green card, passport, supporting evidence, and the correct filing fee.

Processing time and fees for the green card travel document

The processing time for a green card travel document may vary. It is recommended to submit the application well in advance of your planned travel dates to allow sufficient processing time. Additionally, there is a filing fee associated with the application, which you will need to pay when submitting your application.

What Should You Do if You Need to Travel Abroad?

Consulting with USCIS and CBP

If you have any concerns or questions about traveling abroad as a green card holder, it is advisable to consult with USCIS or CBP for guidance. They can provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the travel requirements, necessary documents, and any other specific concerns you may have.

Options for maintaining permanent resident status during travel

If you need to travel abroad for an extended period, there are options available to help you maintain your permanent resident status. For example, you can apply for a re-entry permit or consider obtaining a returning resident visa if you stayed abroad for over one year. It is crucial to explore these options and choose the one that best suits your travel plans and circumstances.

Planning ahead for a temporary trip abroad

If you are planning a temporary trip abroad, ensure you have all the necessary travel documents. This includes your passport, green card, and any required visas. It is also wise to carry supporting documents that can verify your ties to the United States, such as employment letters, property ownership documents, or proof of immediate family members residing in the U.S.


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What Happens If I Travel Abroad Without A Green Card?

The main reason why you need a green card is that it gives you the right to live permanently in the US. A green card is essential for anyone who wants to travel outside the United States. You will need it if you plan to return or travel elsewhere in the world.

Traveling outside the United States without a green card can have many negative consequences. Some of these include:

Possible Detention and Deportation

The United States Border Patrol has the right to detain people without a green card who enter the country without inspection, including those with visas and other legal documents. While this is rare, it does happen occasionally. The Border Patrol in charge of customs and border protection may also decide to deport someone who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa. This is especially true if you have been arrested for any criminal offence or have previous convictions for certain crimes, such as drug trafficking or assault charges.

Difficulty in Obtaining Visas

Even if you already have a visa, it may be difficult for you to renew it after travelling out of the country without permission from USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). In addition, obtaining another type of visa may be impossible unless you return to your home country first and apply for one from there; however, doing so could lead to problems with subsequent applications down the road as well as additional fees

Risk of Denial of Re-entry

If you were denied entry into the US when trying to return after travelling abroad, there is always a chance that this will happen again the next time you try to reenter the country. This could lead to problems with future immigration applications as well as create issues with employers who require employees to travel abroad for business purposes.

This could also affect people who plan on taking family vacations in other countries because they would not be able to go back home easily if something goes wrong during their temporary trip abroad.

Ineligibility for Protection and Assistance Abroad

If you are arrested in another country and need help from U.S. officials, your lack of documentation can make it difficult to obtain assistance from cbp officers or other officials at the embassy or consulate.

Challenges with Obtaining Visas for Other Countries

If you plan on travelling to another country without a lawful permanent resident status, obtaining a visa may be more difficult if your immigration status is unknown or if there is no record of your admission into the United States after your last international trip.

Difficulty Resuming Employment and Studies in the US

If you cannot travel back to the United States because you do not have proper documentation or if it takes longer than expected to get your green card, you may have difficulty resuming your employment or studies there. You will also run into problems if you are trying to get a job, apply for student loans or scholarships, open a bank account, etc.

travel abroad without a green card

How To Travel While Processing Your Green Card

If you are an individual who has applied for a green card, also known as a permanent residency, in the United States and are awaiting approval, you may be wondering if you can leave the United States during the processing period. The answer is yes, you can travel abroad without a green card, but you need to follow certain rules and procedures to be able to travel back and minimise any potential issues with your green card application.

Before Traveling

Before travelling out of the US while processing your green card, it is essential to check the status of your application. If your green card has not been approved yet, you should ensure that you have a valid travel document, such as an Advance Parole document, which allows you to re-enter the US if you need to travel. You can also process your permit application at the same time as your green card application or later. You should receive approval for the Advance Parole document before travelling out of the US.

If your green card application has been approved, you should carry a copy of the approval notice with you and your passport. It is important to note that even if your green card has been approved, you should not travel outside of the US for any longer than 6 months duration, as it may affect your status as a permanent resident.

While Traveling

If you’ve departed the U.S. while your permanent residency is being processed, it is important to keep your green card approval notice and travel documents, such as your passport and Advance Parole document (if applicable) in a safe place. You should also ensure that you have access to these documents throughout your trip.

If you are travelling to a country where you need a temporary travel visa, applying for the visa in advance is essential. Before applying for a visa, you should ensure that you have all the required documents, such as a valid passport, travel itinerary, and proof of financial support.

Returning to the US

When returning to the US after travelling while processing your green card, it is important to have all your travel documents with you, including your passport and Advance Parole document (if applicable). You should present these documents to the immigration officer at the port of entry.

If your green card has been approved, you should present the approval notice along with your passport and Advance Parole document. The immigration officer will review your documents and determine if you are eligible to enter the US. If the immigration officer determines that you are eligible, you will be allowed to enter the US and continue the process of obtaining your green card.

If your green card has not been approved yet, ensuring that your Advance Parole document is still valid is essential. If the document has expired, you will not be allowed to enter the US and may need to reapply for a new Advance Parole document.

What To Do If You Travel Abroad Without Your Green Card

If you have accidentally forgotten your green card before leaving the United States, it is important to take immediate action to rectify the situation. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Contact the nearest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office: If you are still within the United States, you can contact the nearest USCIS office and ask for assistance in obtaining a replacement green card.
  2. Apply for a replacement green card: You can apply for a replacement green card during your temporary absence by submitting Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, along with the required fee and any supporting documentation.
  3. Provide proof of departure: If you have already left the United States, you may need to provide proof of your departure to the USCIS in order to obtain a replacement green card. This could include a copy of your plane ticket or passport stamps.
  4. Consider using a travel document: If you are outside of the United States and unable to obtain a replacement green card, you may want to consider obtaining a reentry permit or advance parole document. This will allow you to reenter the United States legally while your replacement green card is being processed.
  5. Contact an immigration lawyer: If you are experiencing difficulty in obtaining a replacement green card, you may want to consider contacting an immigration lawyer for assistance.

It is important to note that if you are outside of the United States for an extended period of time, your green card may be considered abandoned, and your permanent residency status may be in jeopardy. Therefore, it is important to take steps to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

What is Green Card abandonment and how does it affect your status as a permanent resident?

Green Card Abandonment is a term used to describe the situation of an individual who has been approved to receive lawful permanent residence status in the United States but fails to take any further steps to obtain it. In other words, the individual has abandoned their status as a lawful permanent resident. This could be due to a variety of factors, including not being able to obtain the required documents, or simply not wanting to finalise the process or travelling outside the country for too long. 

Individuals who abandon their US green card application have no legal rights or protections in the US and face potential removal from the country if they are discovered. It is important for individuals with approved green card applications to complete the process to gain legal residence status in the US.


There are several important reasons why it is not advisable to travel out of the United States without a green card. Firstly, without a green card, there is no guarantee of being able to return to the United States. The green card serves as proof of legal residency in the country, which allows for re-entry. Without it, individuals may be denied entry into the United States and face serious consequences, including being detained or deported.

Furthermore, if you travel abroad without a green card, it can lead to legal complications and hinder the application process for obtaining one. It is essential to have valid documentation when leaving and returning to the country to avoid any legal troubles. In conclusion, not having a green card poses significant risks when travelling outside of the United States, including the inability to return to the country and potential legal complications.


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