My [Chinese] wife was granted an IR1 visa to immigrate into the USA. As is typical, she has about a 6 month window to enter, this is fine.

How long would she need to stay minimum on this first entry? They say the actual green card would be mailed within 45 days, however I do not want her to have to sit in the USA for 45 days, we've already registered my daughter in school in Shanghai.

Can we enter, and turn around and leave without any issues even though the physical green card has not been received? Is there any official documentation about this? I've searched, and I see forum posts (and have not yet found actual documentation from gov sites about this) that go both ways, I just want to know the actual legal situation on it today, in 2016.

Back story: I'm a USA citizen, born and bred, but living in Shanghai. Years ago, my wife overstayed her visa by a couple weeks, inadvertently (because our daughter was in school in the USA, and is definitely a USA citizen) and was refused every single visa since even though it was stamped "cancelled without prejudice", the persons refusing her told her the only way is to get a "green card" and so here we are.

We started this process in 2014.

  • Rather than the issue being exiting while waiting for the green card to arrive, wouldn't she risk losing the status altogether if immigration records show that primary residence is abroad? Isn't the IR1 intended for residency in the US?
    – Giorgio
    Aug 28, 2016 at 14:30
  • Further to @Dorothy's comment, see Abandoning Permanent Resident Status Aug 28, 2016 at 14:37
  • Do you have the actual visa yet? Does it have an annotation indicating that "upon endorsement" it serves as a temporary I-551?
    – phoog
    Aug 28, 2016 at 15:43
  • 1
    @Dorothy, yes losing status is an issue, just not our issue. She is immigrating for primary residence to the USA, just not right this second. Like I said, we already registered our daughter in school, so we can't just up and move right now. (We were ready in 2014 and 2015, when the visa was granted in 2016 it was kind of a surprise).
    – Michael
    Aug 29, 2016 at 0:03

1 Answer 1


When she enters, the immigrant visa will generally convert into a temporary I-551. In other words, a temporary "green card." This is valid for one year. So she will be able to leave the US immediately.

As pointed out in a comment, she will then need to worry about abandoning her status as a permanent resident. If she's not actually residing in the US, it could be a significant problem. If you haven't already spoken to a US immigration lawyer, you should probably do so.

  • 3
    This is correct. When I immigrated to the US I was in the country exactly 1.5 hours before leaving again (the visa was valid for only 10 days after I got it and I wasn't ready to move). She'll begin to risk trouble if she stays out more than 6 months at a time, and after a year or two if there's evidence she's spending more time somewhere else than in the US.
    – Dennis
    Aug 28, 2016 at 20:25

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