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Jul 03, 2024 | Nancy Chen

Reentry Permits for Green Card Holders Who Travel Outside the U.S.

As a permanent resident in the United States, there may be occasions where you want to travel abroad for a long time. If you think you may travel for over a year, you need to get a reentry permit, indicating that you do not want to abandon your green card status and allowing you to return to the U.S. This article explains the process of getting this permit.

How to apply for a reentry permit as a green card holder

A lawful permanent resident may face a couple of limitations when traveling outside the U.S. For example, if you are abroad for over a year, your green card would be invalid for reentry. If you take up residence in another country for less than a year, you will also be regarded as abandoning your permanent residence status, according to the information from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Obtaining a reentry permit designates to the U.S. that you are not abandoning your place of residence nor your status.

A reentry permit allows you to enter the U.S. after traveling abroad for up to 2 years without obtaining a returning resident visa. The permit is normally valid for 2 years from the date of issuance.

If you plan on traveling outside the U.S. and cannot or don’t want to get a passport from your home country, you may also want to get a reentry permit as your main travel document. You should check specific requirements with the country you wish to visit.

You can apply for a reentry permit by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, when you are still in the U.S. before your planned trip. The instructions on filling the form are on the USCIS website. The paper filing fee is $630.

What documents are needed for a reentry permit

You need to provide the following documents:

  • A copy of an official photo identity document 
  • Evidence that you are a lawful permanent resident, including a copy of the front and back of your green card; a copy of the biographic pages of your passport and the immigrant visa page showing you are a lawful permanent resident; a copy of the approval notice of your application to replace your Green Card; or temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status
  • Certified English translations of non-English documents

Frequently asked questions regarding reentry to the U.S.

The following situations apply to individuals who are lawful permanent residents.

Can I file Form I-131 when I’m outside the U.S.?

No. You need to file the form when you are physically present in the U.S. The USCIS suggests that you file the form at least 60 days prior to your traveling. In addition, you need to submit biometrics while in the U.S. Otherwise, the USCIS will deny your application. 

If you stay outside the U.S. for over a year and did not file Form I-131 when you were in the country, you may be considered to have abandoned your permanent resident status. Then, you may need to appear before an immigration judge who will decide if you have abandoned your status.

If I file the Form I-131 in the U.S., will USCIS deny my application if I leave the country while the form is still pending?

If you have already filed the form and submitted your biometrics in the U.S., you do not have to be in the country for USCIS to approve your Form I-131. You can also indicate on your Form I-131 that you want your reentry permit to be sent to a U.S. Embassy, consulate or a Department of Homeland Security office overseas for you to retrieve.

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