Do I Need a Reentry Permit to Travel and Will it Affect my Status?

Foreign nationals who have successfully been approved for a green card may sometimes find that they must leave the U.S. for an extended period of time for a variety of legitimate reasons.  In those circumstances, foreign nationals may want to consider applying for a reentry permit which will allow them reentry into the U.S. after a prolonged stay outside the U.S.

When is a reentry permit needed?

As a U.S. green card holder or lawful permanent resident (LPR), you are generally free to travel out of the country and reenter multiple times, as long as you do not intend to stay abroad for periods exceeding six months. If you are absent from the United States or reside abroad for such a prolonged period of time, you may be considered to have abandoned your permanent resident status.

One of the responsibilities of having a green card is to maintain your permanent resident status.  When you need to travel or reside outside of the U.S. for longer than six months, the reentry permits helps to preserve your “maintaining permanent resident status” while you are outside the U.S. A reentry permit will demonstrate your intention to maintain your permanent residence and normally will allow you to travel abroad for up to two years.  For EB-5 investors who have a conditional (2-year) green card, reentry permits are typically only issued for as long as the validity of the conditional (2-year) green card.

Basic Filing Procedures

A Form I-131 is typically used to request a reentry permit.  When filing the form to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the applicant should be physically present in the U.S. at that time.  Additionally, a re-entry permit applicant must appear in person at a USCIS Application Support Center to provide his/her photograph and fingerprints to be captured electronically and the applicant’s identity to be verified.  There is no requirement that the applicant be in the U.S. at the time the reentry permit is approved since the Embassy, Consulate or USCIS can mail the document abroad.

What qualifies as a justifiable reason for an extended absence?  

Lawful permanent residents may need to travel or stay abroad for extended periods for a variety of reasons, including family, school, business or employment.  Every reentry permit application should include an explanation and supporting documentation highlighting the reasons and/or need for temporarily residing abroad, as well as your intent to resume residency in the U.S. after the absence.

For example, overseas employment is the most common reason stated by lawful permanent residents for extended absences from the U.S. In such a case, documentation indicating your intent to resume U.S. residency could include a written statement from your employer, or an employment contract identifying the length and term of your overseas job.  Applicants should also show that they maintain some indicator of permanent residence in the U.S., such as the filing of annual tax returns as a resident of the U.S., maintenance of a residence in the U.S., and bank accounts in the U.S.

How will a reentry permit affect my permanent green card status when I return?

Green card holder who fail to renew their reentry permits and remain outside of the U.S. for more than 2 years after its issuance may need to obtain a returning resident visa or risk having an officer determine legal permanent residence status was abandoned and not being able to enter the U.S.  Note that even with a valid reentry permit, if an Immigration officer at the port of entry believes that you have abandoned your home in the U.S., your green card can be confiscated.

The reentry permit simply instructs the officer that relying solely on the duration of your absence as a basis to determine abandonment of LPR status is not sufficient.  It is always recommended for green card holders to maintain a permanent home in the U.S.

If you plan to be out of the U.S. for an extended period, consult Jatoi & de Kirby, A.P.C. Our California based immigration attorneys can advise you on how to protect your green card status.