Preserving Your Green Card Status While Residing Abroad (Reentry Permit)
As a lawful permanent resident, you are required to physically reside in the United States, except for brief trips abroad. However, there are any many lawful permanent residents, who, for a variety of reasons (i.e. family, business, employment), have a continuing need to reside abroad and enter the U.S. infrequently. However, their intent is to maintain their permanent resident status and eventually resume residency in the United States.
Therefore, those lawful permanent residents should be mindful of the fact that their permanent resident card becomes technically invalid for reentry into the United States if they have been absent from the United States for a continuous period of one year or greater. Additionally, even if the lawful permanent resident has absences shorter than one year, they may be considered to have abandoned their permanent resident card in certain circumstances (i.e. they have taken up residence in another country).
In order to avoid additional hassles at the time of entering the U.S. and to avoid loss of permanent resident status, the lawful permanent resident can file an application for a reentry permit with USCIS. The reentry permit serves as a travel document for the lawful permanent resident and demonstrates the lawful permanent resident’s intent not to abandon their permanent resident status.
How does a lawful permanent resident apply for a reentry permit?
A lawful permanent resident can apply for a reentry permit by filing an application for a reentry permit with USCIS. Ideally, this application should be filed prior to the lawful permanent resident’s departure from the United States. However, it is possible for the lawful permanent resident to apply after they have departed the United States and began their residency abroad. Since the application must be filed while the lawful permanent resident is in the United States, this would require a brief trip to the United States.
Does a reentry permit preserve your continuous residence requirement for Naturalization?
No. The reentry permit serves to preserve permanent resident status but cannot be used to meet the requirements for naturalization.
What happens if a lawful permanent resident is residing outside the U.S. for a period of one year or greater and has not applied for a reentry permit?
It is possible that the next time the lawful permanent resident attempts to enter the U.S. that they will encounter difficulty with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP). Additionally, CBP could also look into taking the necessary actions to have the lawful permanent resident’s status revoked. This can potentially be avoided by attempting to explain at the next entry that the lawful permanent resident was unaware of such a requirement (if true), does not intend to give up permanent resident status and is entering to file an application for a reentry permit (if true).
What happens if a lawful permanent resident is residing outside the U.S., makes occasional trips (or at least once per year) into the U.S. throughout the year and has not applied for a reentry permit?
It is likely that at some point the lawful permanent resident will be advised to either file an application for a reentry permit or to consider abandoning their permanent resident card. Ideally, they should plan on filing for a reentry permit during their next trip and can offer such explanation to U.S. Customs & Border Protection officials at the time of entering the United States.
Why is a U.S. address important for the application?
The lawful permanent resident should provide a U.S. mailing address on their application. Should the lawful permanent resident not have an individual residential address they maintain, they should seek to use the address of a friend or family member. This is important because the Biometrics Appointment for the application will be scheduled at the USCIS Field Office or Application Support Center that has jurisdiction over the U.S. address provided. If the lawful permanent resident is represented by an attorney for this filing, they may consider using the attorney’s address for this purpose. Additionally, the lawful permanent resident can also request that their issued reentry permit be sent to a U.S. Consulate or Dept. of Homeland Security office abroad.
What is the longest amount of time a lawful permanent resident can reside abroad and receive a reentry permit?
Depending on the length of time requested on the application, the lawful permanent resident can initially request and receive a reentry permit valid for a period of up to two years. Should the lawful permanent resident have a continuing need to reside outside the United States close to the expiration of the reentry permit, they can apply for a new reentry permit (should ideally apply ninety days prior to expiration). Again, USCIS can issue a reentry permit valid for a period of up to two years. However, should the lawful permanent resident again have a continuing need to reside outside the United States close to the expiration of the 2nd reentry permit, they can apply for a new reentry permit, but are likely to only receive a reentry permit valid for a period of up to one year increments. Therefore, there is no statutory maximum amount of time that an individual can reside abroad and preserve their lawful permanent resident status through reentry permits. However, as the re-applications continue, USCIS is likely to question the temporary nature of the residence abroad and the lawful permanent resident’s intent to resume their residency in the United States.
What is involved in applying for a reentry permit?
Applying for a reentry permit requires submitting a comprehensive package to USCIS emphasizing the lawful permanent resident’s reasons/needs for wanting to reside abroad temporarily and their intent to resume their residency in the U.S. after their temporary absence. The package should also include evidence that the lawful permanent resident was in the U.S. at the time of filing the application since it is a statutory requirement. Failure to provide such evidence could lead to a Request for Evidence for the same and/or an eventual denial. The main form is: Form I-131 – Application for Travel Document.
What form and supporting documents are necessary to apply for a reentry permit?
The I-131 is the form that the lawful permanent resident must file to apply for their reentry permit. The I-131 form inquires about basic biographic information, the approximate length of time the lawful permanent resident expects to reside outside the United States, how long they have already been outside the United States, and whether they have filed a federal income tax return as a non-resident or if they have failed to file because they considered themselves non-residents.
Additionally, the I-131 petition should be supported by:
Copy of front and back of lawful permanent resident’s permanent resident card
If a renewal application, original reentry permit (if it has not expired yet)
Evidence of being physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing (can include a boarding pass, store/restaurant receipts, etc.)
Statement from the lawful permanent resident explaining their temporary need to reside outside the U.S. and their intent to resume (if need is employment based, should also include a copy of most recent paystub as proof of employment)
Evidence of the lawful permanent resident’s maintenance of U.S. ties
This can include bank statements, current auto/home insurance, filed tax returns, proof of home ownership, current Driver’s License, etc.
How long does the lawful permanent resident need to be physically present in the U.S. for the reentry permit process?
At the time of filing the application, the lawful permanent resident is required to be physically present in the United States. After the application packet is filed, depending on the flexibility of the lawful permanent resident’s plans, they can either remain in the U.S. until they complete their Biometrics Appointment (approximately 5-6 weeks later) or depart the U.S. and return for the Biometrics Appointment. If the lawful permanent resident chooses to depart and return in the future, they can request a rescheduling of a Biometrics Appointment (if necessary), so long as the Biometrics are completed within 120 days. If the Biometrics are not completed within 120 days, the application will be considered abandoned by USCIS and the lawful permanent resident must restart the process.
What to expect after filing the petition packet?
After the application packet is filed, the lawful permanent resident will receive a Receipt Notice within 2-3 weeks. The Receipt Notice serves as proof that the lawful permanent has a pending application for a reentry permit. This can be useful to assure U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officials at future entries (until the application is adjudicated) that you are taking the proper steps to preserve your permanent resident card. The Receipt Notice is also important for following up with USCIS in the future on this matter and checking the case status online.
Approximately 2-3 weeks after the Receipt Notice is generated, USCIS will schedule the lawful permanent resident for a Biometrics Appointment at a local USCIS Field Office or an Application Support Center that has jurisdiction over the U.S. address provided in the application. At that appointment, the lawful permanent resident will have their picture and fingerprints taken so that the necessary security background checks can be completed.
Request for Evidence
If USCIS determines that the information/documentation submitted is inadequate to satisfy the application requirements and further information is needed, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). The Request for Evidence will specifically state the documents/information they are seeking and a timeline under which they need to be submitted (all requested information should be submitted at the same time). Failing to respond to the RFE may result in the denial of the application. An RFE also will result in a longer processing time for the application.
Approximately 4-6 weeks after the Biometrics Appointment (assuming no RFE was issued), USCIS should issue a favorable decision and send the lawful permanent resident their reentry permit.
If the application is approved, the lawful permanent resident will receive a reentry permit valid for a period of one to two years. The reentry permit resembles a passport since it is included in a similar book setup and includes a biographic page with your photograph, etc. The lawful permanent resident should then use their permanent resident card and their reentry permit to reenter the United States.
Should the lawful permanent resident have a continuing need to reside abroad close to the expiration of their reentry permit, they should file a new application approximately 90 days prior to the expiration of their reentry permit.
To avoid reentry permit hassles and other risks involved with being a lawful permanent resident, the lawful permanent resident should determine if they meet the requirements for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.
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