How can I return to the U.S. as a green card holder who has stayed outside the country for an extended period of time?
I obtained my green card through the EB-5 program. Due to my study, I have stayed outside the U.S. for 13 months and did not file for I-131. Now I want to travel back to the country. How can I enter the border? What documents do I need to bring?
You have a difficult case. Often USCIS will forgive an extended absence if to complete studies, but being abroad over one year technically terminates your U.S. residency. You should be ready to explain this to the officer upon inspection who has discretion to admit you if the facts are compelling.
Consider a returning resident visa application. Consult an immigration attorney to prepare your case, which should evidence ties to the U.S. and your intent to maintain your permanent abode in the U.S.
Just bring your green card. They will admit you. If you have documentation to explain why you've been out of the country, then be sure to bring it with you also.
You could try to get on a plane and head back now. You might get lucky and be admitted to the U.S. If not, they will make you fly right back. You don't have much of an excuse to have been gone so long. If you have a place to live in the U.S., take proof of that with you. If you have bank accounts here, take that. Also consider a car here or family in America.
Unfortunately, you cannot file Form I-131 to obtain a re-entry permit unless you are physically present in the United States when you file the form. You should contact the U.S. consulate about a returning resident visa.
You are not allowed to stay outside of the U.S. for more than six months at the time. In your case, you must show a valid reason as to why you stayed more than one year, 13 months, outside of the U.S. You may enter with no questions asked and yet you may be stopped and interrogated to determine your intention to maintain your legal residency. If you are sent to second inspection for interrogation, you are normally offered a choice to either surrender your green card or request to see an immigration judge. If you agree to surrender your green card, you may be sent back to your home country or the CBP officer may issue a temporary visa to stay in the U.S. as a visitor. If you request to see an immigration judge, then you will have to proof that you had no intention to abandon your residency in the U.S. and the way you show your intention by providing evidence that you are filing taxes, own property, car, cell phone, bank account, immediate family reside in the U.S., etc. Upon entry to the U.S., try to carry with you any evidence to show that you have connection to the U.S.
Staying out of the U.S. for more than 13 months puts into jeopardy your right to maintain your permanent resident card, evidencing your lawful permanent residency in the U.S. After being out continuously for more than 12 months, you are deemed to have abandoned your U.S. residency. However, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose to apply for re-entry. You should take with you records of the fact that you were in school, and to the extent possible, why you were unable to return anytime sooner. Also carry with you whatever U.S. documents you have evidencing your U.S. residency, including your U.S. driver license and U.S. credit cards. I've seen immigration inspectors at the airport exercise amazing discretion in cases, but there's no guarantee for re-admission. The sooner you apply, the better.