Permanent residents may leave the U.S. and travel abroad. However, if you are outside the U.S. for more than one year (12 months) during a single trip, you may be considered to have abandoned your green card status. In fact, after a six-month absence, it may be presumed that you no longer intend to reside permanently in the United States.
The solution to this problem is to obtain a re-entry permit, which allows Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and Conditional Permanent Residents (CPRs) to return to the United States after spending more than one year outside the country.
A re-entry permit from USCIS looks similar to a passport. Note that if you are traveling and have a passport, you should travel with both your re-entry permit booklet and your passport booklet.
There are two main situations when a re-entry permit is required.
The first is if you are a permanent resident traveling outside the United States for more than one year at a time. We generally advise our clients to obtain a permit even if they will be absent for less than a year or more than 6 months. The other situation is if you have a history of extended stays outside the country. Reasons for being abroad include
– Studying abroad on an international student visa
– You join the U.S. military as an LPR and have an assignment or training outside the U.S.
– You have a family member still living abroad and you are their caregiver.
– Your job requires frequent international travel
Whatever your reason for traveling abroad, make sure you have the proper travel documents to re-enter the country.
To apply for your green card, you must file Form I-131 with the USCIS. This must be filed while you are physically present in the United States. For those living in Japan, you would need to be physically present in the U.S. during the filing period and until the application is received by USCIS. After that, you may be required to appear at an Application Support Center (ASC) for fingerprinting, so you may have to return to the U.S. from Japan (unless you are waiting in the U.S. for your fingerprinting appointment.) Rescheduling fingerprinting appointments has been problematic, but the USCIS recently announced an online service for doing so, so hopefully this will make things easier.
The processing time after application really varies. It can take anywhere from a few months to more than a year. It’s best to check the USCIS processing times to get a better idea.
If you have already applied and received your Reentry Permit Application Receipt Number, you can check the status of your case here.
Re-entry Permit Fee
There are three categories for a re-entry permit fee when filing Form I-131:
– Ages 13 or younger: $575
– Ages 14 to 79: $660; the increase is due to an $85 biometric service fee.
Re-entry Permit Validation Period
There are two answers to the question “How long is the re-entry permit valid?
- The typical re-entry permit validation period is two years from the date you receive your permit or the date of issuance.
- If you have a conditional green card with an expiration date less than two years from the date you receive your re-entry permit – that is, you are a conditional U.S. resident – then your re-entry permit will only last as long as your conditional residency. You can still get a re-entry permit, but you cannot get a re-entry permit extension. Instead, you must return to the United States and reapply for a re-entry permit.
Re-entry Permit Renewal
When your re-entry permit expires, whether you are a conditional resident or a permanent resident green card holder, you must return to the United States and obtain a new re-entry permit. This means that you may need to take another biometric (fingerprint) exam before you can receive your new re-entry permit. Often, the biometric appointment is waived for renewals.
Remember that you must apply for a re-entry permit from within the United States. You must also submit your current re-entry permit to USCIS when you apply for your new re-entry permit.
How many times can I reapply for a green card re-entry permit?
There is no set number of times you can reapply. We’ve had clients reapply over 10 times. Typically, after the initial approval, you will receive a one-year approval instead of two. This is discretionary.
Re-entry permits help LPRs who travel abroad for more than one year to return to the United States. Having a re-entry permit does not guarantee your re-entry into the U.S., but it makes it much easier. Being abroad for more than one year without a re-entry permit may cause USCIS to suspect you of abandoning your green card.
If you have been out of the United States for more than one year, you can try to apply for a Returning Resident Visa through the U.S. Department of State. However, depending on your situation, this may be difficult. The other option is to prepare a re-entry package to present to CBP. Even if you have been away for more than a year, or even 4-5 years, CBP has the discretion to allow you back into the US. Each case is specific and we have helped many returning permanent residents get through the CBP process even after a long absence. Every situation is difficult, so if you have this problem, we recommend that you consult with us. Consultation can be done at https://www.swlgpc.com/jp/contactus/requestaconsultation/