Ok. Here is the semi hypothetical situation:

US Permanent Resident married to a US citizen who works on a contract basis for the US military abroad.

According to the USCIS:

The permanent residency may be considered abandoned if:

Abandoning Permanent Resident Status

You may also lose your permanent resident status by intentionally abandoning it. You may be found to have abandoned your status if you:

  • Move to another country, intending to live there permanently.

  • Remain outside of the United States for an extended period of time, unless you intended this to be a temporary absence, as shown by:

    • The reason for your trip;
    • How long you intended to be absent from the United States;
    • Any other circumstances of your absence; and
    • Any events that may have prolonged your absence.
    • Note: Obtaining a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave, or a returning resident visa (SB-1) from a U.S. consulate while abroad, may assist you in showing that you intended only a temporary absence.
  • Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period.

  • Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your U.S. tax returns.

Now the situation is that the contract is a temporary thing usually a year but contracts may be extended or a new contract in a different country may be signed and this could go on for a long period of time.

So how can the spouse keep his/her permanent resident status in the face of this situation? I can't seem to find any actual procedures on how one can obtain an SB-1? and What documentation needs to be shown to do it?

P.S. Just so we're clear the contracts may not be on a US military base but on an ally base that US military is using on a long term basis.

  • 1
    Here's the SB-1 info: travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/… . It's not something you get in advance like a re-entry permit, it's a fast-track around having to do a whole new immigrant application.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 15:34
  • The I-131 application for travel includes requesting a re-entry permit.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 18:26
  • 1
    I suspect that if your spouse remains in the US, or even if you maintain a residence of some sort, you can just come back in on your green card. Even if you do not maintain a residence in the US, I suspect that doing contract work for the US military will be taken as a temporary absence, even if it is a long-term absence.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:13
  • Is the spouse on a contract with the US military directly, or working with a contractor who contracts with the US military?
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


First of all, you should get a Re-entry Permit, because your green card is only officially valid for entry after trips abroad of up to 1 year, but with Re-entry Permit you can re-enter any time during the validity of the permit, which is 2 years. Getting a Re-entry Permit also expresses intention to return to the US, as your quote says.

But getting a Re-entry Permit by itself does not guarantee that you do not lose permanent residency. You still have to satisfy the condition of maintaining residence in the US. There is no hard and fast formula for making sure you have maintained residence; it's a matter of judgment by the immigration officers. Things that will help include:

  • Maintaining your "home" in the US during this time that you clearly intend to return to
  • Filing US taxes (you are required to do this according to tax law anyway)
  • Maintaining active bank accounts and other accounts in the US

By the way, since you are the spouse of a US citizen working abroad for the US government, you may qualify for naturalization under INA 319(b) immediately, without waiting a certain number of years. You would have to be in the US to file for this.

  • I'm not sure his spouse actually works for the US government, based on the description...
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 7:45
  • @littleadv the description says "for the US military", though I wouldn't know if being on a "contract basis" changes anything?
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 16:51
  • @DanGetz not that I know too much about this, but my understanding is that the DOD contracts companies which then hire employees...
    – littleadv
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 17:30
  • 1
    @littleadv oh good point: big difference between being "on a contract" and "working for a contractor".
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 17:31

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