Permanent and Conditional U.S. residents planning on traveling outside of the country for an extended period of time will encounter some limitations. While those traveling outside of the country for under one year do not have to officially file for any permits, those who will be outside of the country for one year or more will need to obtain a Re-entry Permit.
What is a Re-Entry Permit and why do I need one?
A Re-entry Permit is a document that allows Green Card holders to travel outside of the U.S. for a period greater than one year. Green Cards are issued to people who intend to make the U.S. their permanent home, but staying outside of the U.S. for longer than a year gives USCIS reason to think that you do not plan to live in the country permanently. Obtaining a re-entry permit will ensure that your resident status will not be jeopardized.
How do I apply for a Re-Entry Permit?
You can apply for a Re-entry Permit by filing Form I-131 with USCIS. Form I-131, as well as its filing instructions, are available for free download at http://www.uscis.gov/i-131. Form I-131 should be filed well in advance of your planned trip and requires that you be present in the U.S. upon filing. It is recommended that you file the form at least 90 days before traveling. Re-entry Permits are usually valid for two years; however, if you have been outside of the U.S. for more than 4 of the last 5 years since becoming a Permanent Resident, your Permit’s validity will generally be limited to 1 year.
What if I travel before my Re-Entry Permit is granted?
It is recommended that you wait until after your Re-entry Permit is granted before traveling overseas. This is because your application may be denied and you may have trouble entering the U.S. However, you do not need to be in the U.S. for your Form I-131 to be approved. As long as your biometrics have been obtained, you can indicate on Form I-131 to have the approved Re-entry Permit sent to a U.S. Embassy, Consulate, or DHS office.
Applying for a Re-Entry Permit can be a confusing process. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Jatoi & de Kirby, A.P.C. Our experienced immigration attorneys can help you ensure the legality of your upcoming trip.