Does an alien resident have to cancel a permanent resident card if he/she plans to leave the US indefinitely?
Green cards are issued to “permanent residents” of the Unites States. If you stay away too long, you could lose your green card; especially if you intend to make some other country your home.
When you attempt to re-enter the U.S. after a prolonged stay abroad, it is the border officer who decides whether you are living outside the country. The officer may ask you why you left the U.S.; what you were doing while outside the country; and where you make your home. He may also look at other facts, such as whether you pay U.S. taxes; own or lease property in the U.S.; where you work, etc.
If you want to preserve your options while you decide whether to take up permanent residency in another country, you can apply for a reentry permit (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document). You must explain the purpose of your trip and when you plan to return.
If you are serious about leaving the U.S. and living elsewhere permanently and relinquishing your Permanent Resident Card or “Green Card”, you must complete the yellow-highlighted sections in form I-407 [PDF 624Kb], “Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence”.
Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office receives your completed Form I-407 and your Permanent Resident Card, the appropriate documentation stamps will be placed on the form along with the USCIS officer’s signature. A copy of this form will be returned to you in the stamped, self-address envelope you provide. This copy of the completed I-407 is your receipt and it validates the return of your Permanent Resident Card. You should keep a copy of the completed I-407 with your passport when you travel to the United States.
Abandoning your Permanent Resident Card and status does not affect your ability to apply to immigrate to the United States at some future time. However, you will have to begin the process anew and apply through the usual application process.