Angel Rama, a University of Maryland Spanish professor who is appealing the federal government's refusal to give him permanent residence on the grounds he is a subversive, left the United States yesterday for a year to do research in Europe.

Rama, 56, a renowned scholar of Latin American literature who denies he is a subversive, said he has not given up hope that his appeal will succeed.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has said it has not yet made a final decision on Rama's residency request and last week gave him permission to leave the country without prejudicing his application. Under normal circumstances, an alien requesting permanent residence is not permitted to leave the United States while his request is pending.

"It shows there is reason to hope," Rama said of being permitted to leave to conduct his research.

INS has listed Rama ineligible for permanent residence under a federal act that bars aliens affiliated with Communist or anarchist groups. INS has declined to say what specific actions caused him to be placed in that category

Last December Colombian President Belisaro Betancur, a personal friend of Rama's, made a direct plea on behalf of Rama to President Reagan during Reagan's swing through Latin America. Rama, a native of Uruguay, has Venezuelan citizenship.

Rama said yesterday that Betancur--who said he hadn't heard from Reagan--telephoned two weeks ago to see if Rama had an answer from the White House. Rama told Betancur during the call that he had not received any answer either.

Rama will spend a year in France, West Germany and Spain on a Guggenheim Fellowship.

If INS ultimately approves his residency application, he will return to the University of Maryland, from which he has taken a leave of absence. University officials have interceded on his behalf with INS.