If you are a green card holder in the United States, you are allowed to leave the country and travel abroad. When returning, you will still need to present your green card and passport. However, if you are outside of the U.S. for over one year (12 months) during a single travel experience, you may be considered as having abandoned your green card status.
When you are seen to have abandoned your U.S. residency status, then you may be denied entry when returning to the U.S. To avoid this situation altogether, you can use a re-entry permit.
On this page, you’ll find all the information you need about U.S. re-entry permits.
A green card re-entry permit is a travel document issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A re-entry permit allows lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and conditional permanent residents to return to the United States after spending more than one year outside of the country.
A U.S. re-entry permit from USCIS looks similar to a passport. Note that if you are traveling and you do have a passport, you should travel with both your re-entry permit booklet and passport booklet.
You can travel abroad with LPR status. However, if you have an extended stay abroad for more than a year, USCIS will most likely see your green card status as abandoned.
There are two primary situations when a U.S. re-entry permit is necessary.
The first is—as previously discussed—if you are an LPR or conditional permanent resident who is traveling outside of the United States for more than a continuous year. That is, you left the United States and did not return for the next 12 months or more.
The second is if you are not gone for an extended period of a year or more, but you do have a history of extended stays outside of the country.
Although there are many reasons why you may need to leave the United States to travel abroad, here are some examples of common situations that may require you to leave the U.S.:
Whatever your reason for traveling abroad, make sure that you are equipped with the correct travel documents to allow you to re-enter the country.
In order to apply for your green card re-entry permit, you need to file Form I-131 with USCIS. This needs to be completed in the United States prior to your extended travel.
Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, is used for many reasons, including both refugee travel and advance parole travel documents. Because of the form’s versatility, it will benefit you to work with an immigration attorney so your Form I-131 is filled out correctly for the purpose of a re-entry permit.
As with many form processing times, we often hear the question: “How long does it take to get a re-entry permit?”
Form I-131 processing time varies depending on the form category and the field office or service center you need to file to. But you should expect to wait several months at a minimum.
According to USCIS: “The processing time displayed on the USCIS website is the amount of time it took us to complete 80% of adjudicated cases over the last six months. Processing time is defined as the number of days (or months) that have elapsed between the date USCIS received an application, petition, or request and the date USCIS completed the application, petition, or request (that is, approved or denied it) in a given six-month period.”
There is quite a range of processing times, all of which are over six to 18 months. Talk to the experienced immigration attorneys at our office about how to strategically maintain lawful resident status, particularly when applying for a re-entry permit with Form I-131 processing time.
If you have already applied and received your receipt number for your re-entry permit application, you can check your case status here. As of right now, USCIS does not offer a re-entry permit online application option, however, you may file a number of other immigration forms online.
There are three categories for a re-entry permit fee when filing Form I-131:
If you are filing Form I-131 for purposes other than obtaining a re-entry permit, different fees will apply. Ask your immigration attorney for assistance when filing and paying for your form.
There are two answers to the question of “How long does the re-entry permit last?”
When your re-entry permit expires, whether you are a conditional resident or a permanent resident green card holder, you will need to return to the United States and get a new re-entry permit. This means undergoing another biometrics exam before obtaining your new re-entry permit.
Keep in mind that in order to apply for a re-entry permit, you must apply from within the United States. You will also need to send in your current re-entry permit to USCIS when applying for your new re-entry permit.
When traveling, make sure you have your necessary travel documents, including:
There are endless reasons why someone may need to leave the United States for an extended period of time. Life circumstances arise and you may find that, although you are firmly planted in the United States, you must leave the country for a time. To best prepare for these circumstances, you should travel with a U.S. re-entry permit to keep your LPR status.
That being said, having a re-entry permit never guarantees that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will allow you to re-enter the country. An officer can bring you in for questioning even if you have your green card re-entry permit.
Although getting a re-entry permit is a great option for traveling abroad, one of the best ways to ensure re-entry into the United States is to become a U.S. citizen.
True, the citizenship process is long, but becoming a U.S. citizen opens opportunities for your travel needs and much more. If you are interested in learning more about the naturalization process, contact our immigration and naturalization attorneys.
No, but they are similar. Advance parole is for people in the United States who are not yet LPRs. If you have applied for LPR status and are waiting to hear back about your green card application, you can apply for advance parole if you need to travel outside the United States.
You are allowed to reapply for a re-entry permit from USCIS. If you continue to reapply and USCIS sees that you have spent four of the past five years abroad, then your re-entry permit will be issued for one year instead of the usual two.
There are exceptions to this rule depending on your reasons for being abroad and in the U.S.. For example, U.S. governmental employees who need to travel for work purposes.
If you are a conditional resident in the United States, you will receive a U.S. re-entry permit that only lasts as long as your conditional green card period.
Conditional green cards are given to those who seek adjustment of status through K-1 entry. Conditional green card holders have the same rights as LPRs, but the green card is only valid for a period of two years. This is to ensure that the marriage in which you became a permanent resident is bona fide, or in good faith.
To remove conditions, you will need to file Form I-751. Once you have been granted lawful permanent residency, you will have your unrestricted green card and be able to have a re-entry permit that lasts for the full two years.
Yes, a re-entry permit application can be denied. Making sure you send in your original re-entry permit and submit all required documents can avoid a denial.
If you find that your re-entry permit has been denied, you can appeal the decision within 33 days. Speak with your immigration attorney about appealing your green card re-entry permit denial.
No, you do not need a re-entry permit from USCIS for traveling abroad for less than a year. If you plan on traveling frequently, however, it may be wise—and even eventually necessary—to apply for one.
Re-entry permits help LPRs who are traveling abroad for more than one year return to the United States. Having a re-entry permit does not guarantee your re-entry into the U.S., but it significantly helps. Being abroad for more than a year without a re-entry permit can lead to USCIS suspecting you of green card abandonment.
In most cases, a re-entry permit is valid for two years. This means that before the two years are up, you need to return to the United States. If you need to stay abroad for longer, you must return to the United States to reapply for a re-entry permit.
If you are away from the United States for over two years (24 months), then USCIS will find your green card abandoned. In order to maintain your green card status, you will need to continue to extend your re-entry permit.
If you have been outside the United States for more than two years, then you will need to go through the returning resident visa process through the U.S. Department of State. If you have questions about these guidelines, please reach out and speak to our team of immigration attorneys.
The immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates P.C. are here for you to answer any questions you may have about your green card re-entry permit or other immigration inquiries. Working with an experienced legal team can ease the process of navigating the complexities of immigration law.
With over 70 years of combined experience, we have helped people just like you get a U.S. re-entry permit to travel abroad. Life happens, jobs require international travel, family members need attending to, and so much more. We want to help you prepare for any circumstances that may call you abroad. And we want to ensure you will still have a place to call home here in the United States.
Contact us for more information, guidance, and help when applying for your re-entry permit. Call us at 312.444.1940 or fill out an online contact form today. We look forward to hearing from you!