Once you are a lawful permanent resident, you can exit and enter the United States as you please, right? You may be surprised to find that is not quite the case. There are two travel scenarios that could actually jeopardize your permanent resident status:
- If you are absent from the United States for more than 1 year
- If you are absent for more than six months, but take up legal residence in another country
Obviously, no one wants to jeopardize their status, and so, permanent residents try to avoid taking these actions. However, sometimes life interferes and for whatever reason one must be out of the country for an extended period of time. One solution to this problem is the reentry permit.
A reentry permit establishes that you did not intend to abandon your status, and it allows you to apply for admission to the United States after traveling abroad as a legal permanent resident for up to 2 years without having to obtain a returning resident visa. Reentry permits are usually valid for 2 years from the date of issuance.
The other function of a reentry permit is as a replacement for a passport from your home country. Many countries will actually allow you to use a reentry permit much like you would use a passport—placing necessary visas and entry and exit stamps in the permit—so you may use it as your main travel document. Of course, you will want to check that the country you plan to visit accepts reentry permits in this capacity before you travel.
How to Obtain A Reentry Permit
To obtain a reentry permit, you will need to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. It is best to do this well ahead of your planned trip. Filing instructions can be found here.
Remember, if you are planning to travel outside of the United States for 1 year or more, it is important that you apply for a reentry permit before you depart the United States. You need to be physically present in the United States to apply for this permit.
If you have already stayed outside of the United States for a year or more and did not apply for a reentry permit, it is possible that for the purposes of USCIS you are considered to have abandoned your permanent resident status. To resolve the matter, you will likely have to prove that you did not abandon your status or appear before an immigration judge who will decide your current immigration status based on the unique circumstances of your leave.
Have a question about filing for a reentry permit before you leave the United States, or remedying the situation after you have already left? We are here to help. Contact us to discuss your options!