The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted all our lives in many ways including the ability to travel internationally. International travelers have faced closed borders across the globe and have had to seek special permissions to cross borders, which have been granted only in the most essential situations. While the United States and a handful of other countries are slowly starting to normalize, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in several other countries. With the continued goal of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the United States continues to impose travel restrictions, even adding restrictions as new variants emerge and community transmissions surge in certain regions.
While the travel restrictions have significantly affected nonimmigrant visa holders as well, this article will focus on the impact on U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). LPRs (also known as green cardholders) have the right to live permanently in the United States and possess many of the same rights as United States citizens. With these benefits come many responsibilities and failing to meet the responsibilities can result in losing LPR status—which can be a devastating loss as many have waited for years or decades to become green cardholders. One key responsibility is maintaining permanent residence status while traveling outside of the United States. LPRs generally do not face any issues if their absence from the United States is for a temporary period. However, absences that range from several months to one year will most likely result in questioning by immigration inspectors regarding the LPR’s intentions to abandon LPR status. After a year of COVID, for LPRs who have been abroad continuously for more than one year and are now seeking to return to the United States, the presumption is that they have abandoned their green card, unless the LPR can show otherwise.