A CBP port inspector can easily accuse you of abandoning your USA lawful permanent resident status when you attempt to reenter the US after remaining abroad for more than one year. An expired green card is a particular problem when trying to reenter the US after living abroad.
Those who have green cards and plan to live abroad for more than one year should apply for an I-131 reentry permit. That effort helps show immigration agencies that you have a plan for residing abroad but still maintain your primary residence in the US. However, you must apply for a reentry permit from within the US; you cannot apply for it after you’ve already departed the US.
Even if the LPR has a reentry permit, this is only an argument that CBP should allow entry. CBP can disagree. So, it is important that an LPR spend more than half his or her time inside the US and maintain a primary residence in the US in order to preserve lawful permanent residence status in the US with certainty.
Permanent Resident Status is Permanent
On the other hand, an LPR status is permanent. It does not expire because a green card expired. You can voluntarily abandon LPR status, or an immigration judge can rule that your status is abandoned. For this reason, CBP officers will often try to pressure a foreigner into abandoning the green card at the border check under threat of putting the foreigner into immigration removal proceedings before a judge.
Expired Green Card
Another common problem is that a green card expires while a foreigner is abroad. In most cases, it is a mistake to apply for revalidation of LPR status at a US consulate abroad when it appears that the foreigner has not complied with all rules for maintaining a green card. But, if the foreigner does not apply to renew the green card in some manner, a ticketing agent at an airport will not allow the foreigner to board a flight to the US because the foreigner does not have proper documentation: the green card has expired.
In this situation, it may help for the foreigner who has an expired green card to fly to either Canada or Mexico and cross into the US by land. CBP will surely notice that the green card is expired and may try to force the LPR to voluntarily abandon LPR status. If that happens, you would need to negotiate options with the CBP officer.
Everyone’s circumstance is different. So, you need to be aware of the dangers and how to prepare before you approach a US checkpoint with an expired green card.