As a green card holder, you have to keep in mind that you may lose your green card if you remain outside the U.S. for an extended period of time (1 year or more) or even if you remain outside the U.S. for less than 1 year but the officer believes that you did not intend to make the U.S. your permanent residence.
What is a Reentry Permit?
If you are a green card holder and you want to travel outside the U.S. for a period of one year or more, you will not be allowed to reenter the U.S. on your green card, and instead you should apply for a Reentry permit before you leave the U.S. The fact that you were issued a Reentry permit means that you should not be deemed to have abandoned your green card solely on the duration of an absence abroad while the reentry permit was valid. However, the Reentry permit does not guarantee an entry into the U.S. and the officer will still consider several factors when considering whether or not you have abandoned your green card.
How and when to file the Reentry permit application?
If you want to apply for a Reentry permit, you will have to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you file the reentry permit application and you cannot apply for a reentry permit from abroad. In addition, you will also need to go to go to a biometrics appointment in the U.S. before you leave the U.S. (or return to the U.S. to do the biometrics). You cannot go to a biometrics appointment once you are outside the U.S. You should apply for a Reentry Permit well in advance of you international travel.
Do I have to stay in the U.S. until my Reentry Permit Application is adjudicated?
The short answer is no. You can indicate on Form I-131 that you want USCIS to sent your reentry permit a U.S. Embassy, Consulate or DHS office abroad and you can then pick up your reentry permit there.
For how long is my Reentry Permit valid?
Generally, the reentry permit is valid for 2 years from the date it was issued.
What is Special Immigrant Returning Visa?
If you stayed outside the U.S. for longer than one year and you did not apply for a Reentry Permit prior to leaving the U.S. (or if you stayed beyond the validity of your reentry permit), you will have to apply for a Special Immigrant Returning Visa to enter the U.S. To qualify for a Special Immigrant Returning Visa, you will have to show that:
- You were a green card holder at the time you left the U.S.;
- You left the U.S. with the intention of returning and you have not abandoned this intention;
- You are returning to the U.S. from a temporary visit abroad, and if this stay was protracted, it was cause by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.
You should apply for this visa at least 3 months in advance. First, you will be interviewed for your Returning Visa application (you will have to fill in form DS-117 when you apply) and if this application is approved, you will be interviewed for your immigrant visa application (you will need to submit form DS-260 and you will also have to undergo a medical examination before your interview).
Please consult an immigration attorney before taking any long-term trips (6 months or more) outside the U.S.
Please click here to find out more information on how to maintain your green card.
Please also see our blog post discussing naturalization.
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