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Reentry Permits Allow Permanent Residents to Remain Outside the United States for More than 6 Months

Posted by Karol Brown | Feb 06, 2024 | 0 Comments

Lawful permanent residents are required to physically reside in the United States. While permanent residents can take brief trips abroad, any trip outside the United States for more than 180 days can cause the US government to question whether you still qualify for permanent residency. A permanent resident card can become invalid for reentry into the United States if you have been continuously absent from the United States for more than one year. This limitation on long stays abroad can create difficulties for lawful permanent residents who need to travel internationally or reside abroad for family, business, employment or other reasons. Traveling back to the United States every six months can be expensive and time consuming. 

If you intend to maintain your permanent resident status and eventually resume your residency in the United States, you can request a Reentry Permit to allow you to stay outside the United States for up to two years. A reentry permit prevents difficulties when entering the United States and maintains permanent resident status. The reentry permit demonstrates that your intention is not to abandon your permanent resident status even with a prolonged absence from the USA.

How to Apply for a Reentry Permit

As a lawful permanent resident, you can apply for a reentry permit by filing an I131 Application for Travel Authorization with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). This application must be filed while the permanent resident is physically in the United States; it can not be filed while abroad. The requirements for applying for a reentry permit can be found at the USCIS website Form I-131. The packet for a reentry permit requires evidence about the reasons that the permanent resident needs to reside abroad temporarily. You should also provide proof of your intent to return to permanent residency in the United States after your temporary absence. You should also provide documents showing that that you were in the U.S. at the time of filing the application, which is required by the regulations at 8 CFR §223.2(b)(1). 

The Form I131 asks for basic biographic information about the lawful permanent resident. The form also asks how long you expect to remain outside the United States, how long you have already been outside the United States, and whether you have filed a federal income tax return as a non-resident. If you have previously been approved for a reentry permit, you should also include your previous unexpired reentry permit with your new application packet. 

You will also need to provide a U.S. mailing address on your Form I131 application. If you do not intend to keep a residence in the United States, you can use the U.S. address of a friend, family member, or business associate. If we are filing this form as your attorney, we can use our firm's address for this purpose. Your biometrics appointment will be scheduled at the USCIS Field Office or Application Support Center nearest the U.S. address listed on the form. 

After Applying for a Reentry Permit

Below are the steps that will occur after you submit your application for a reentry permit.

Receipt Notice

Once you submit your Form I131 with the USCIS, you will receive a Receipt Notice in about 2 to 3 weeks. The Receipt Notice shows that you have a pending application for a reentry permit that is being processed by the USCIS. The receipt notice can be used to follow with USCIS and check the status of your case online. You can also use this receipt notice to show U.S. Customs & Border Protection ("CBP") officials when entering the United States that you have taken the necessary steps to preserve your permanent resident card. 

Biometrics Notice

The USCIS will send you a biometrics appointment notice approximately five to six weeks after filing for a reentry permit. This appointment will be scheduled for your local USCIS Field Office or an Application Support Center, based on the U.S. address you listed in the application. At that biometrics appointment, you will have your picture and fingerprints taken so that the USCIS can complete the necessary security background checks.

Request for Evidence

If the USCIS officer wants additional information to confirm that you meet the application requirements, the USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence ("RFE"). The Request for Evidence will ask for additional documents, evidence, or information and provide a deadline for submitting these additional documents to the USCIS. You should ensure that you would get this mail forwarded to you if you plan to be out of the country while this application is being processed. Your application could be denied if you do not respond to the RFE by the deadline. Generally, you have 90 days to respond to a Request for Evidence.

Reentry Permit with personal information blacked out
Example of an Approved Reentry Permit

Decision

The USCIS will issue a decision on your Form I131. The processing times may vary, but you can check the current times on the USCIS Processing Times website. If your case is approved, the USCIS will send you an approval notice. You will also receive a reentry permit that is valid for one or two years. You can request that the USCIS send your reentry permit to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be living.

Approval of the Reentry Permit

If the application is approved, the lawful permanent resident will receive a reentry permit valid for a period of up to two years. The reentry permit looks like a passport, issued in a book with a biographic page with your photograph and personal information. You will use this document, together with your valid permanent resident card, to show Customs and Border Protection when you next return to the United States.

Extensions of your Reentry Permit

If your reentry permit is about to expire but you still need to live abroad, you can file a new I131 reentry permit application. We recommend that you file your next I131 Application within six months before your current reentry permit expires. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Reentry Permit

I am a lawful permanent resident. What happens if I live outside the U.S. for more than one year without filing for a reentry permit?

If you live outside the United States for more than one year as a US lawful permanent resident, you may have difficulty returning to the United States using your permanent resident card. You would likely be questioned by an officer with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection ("CBP").  They would determine whether you have abandoned your permanent residency by remaining outside the United States. The CBP officer could take actions to have your lawful permanent resident status revoked. You should be prepared to show your continued ties to the United States, your intention to remain a permanent resident, and the reasons why you needed to remain outside the United States to avoid losing your permanent residency status. You may also tell the CBP officer that your intention is to return to the United States to file an application for a reentry permit, if you are planning to leave again.

Can I live outside the United States as a lawful permanent resident, if I plan to travel to the United States at least once every six months?

Permanent residents are supposed to reside in the United States. If you remain outside the United States as a permanent resident, you may be questioned about your residency and your intentions when reentering the United States. The CBP officer may advise you to either file an application for a reentry permit or to abandon your permanent residency status. We recommend that you file for a Reentry Permit if you are residing in a country other than the United States as a permanent resident.

What is the longest amount of time that I can live abroad as a lawful permanent resident of the United States?

If you have not filed a reentry permit, we recommend that you do not remain outside the United States for more than six months (180 days). If you expect that you will be outside the United States for longer than that as a lawful permanent resident, you can file to request a reentry permit that is valid for a period of up to two years while you are in the United States. That will allow you to reside abroad for up to that two year validity period.

If you need to live outside the United States beyond that two year period, you can request another reentry permit for an additional two years. We recommend that you file within the six months prior to the expiration date of your reentry permit. After the first two reentry permits, you can apply for extensions in one year increments. There is no maximum amount of time that you can reside abroad and maintain your lawful permanent resident status through reentry permits. With each application, you will have to provide evidence to show that the need to reside abroad is temporary and your intention is the resume your residency in the United States.

As a permanent resident, how long do I need to be physically present in the United States to apply for a reentry permit?

You will need to be physically present in the United States to apply for the reentry permit. Once your Form I131 application packet is filed with the USCIS, we recommend that you remain in the United States until you complete your biometrics appointment, which is generally scheduled about 5 to 6 weeks after filing. If you are unable to stay for that appointment, you can depart and return to the United States for your biometric fingerprint and photograph appointment. You can also request a rescheduling of your biometrics appointment. Just know that your biometrics should be completed within a reasonable time or your application will be considered abandoned by USCIS. If that happens, you would have to file a new Form I131 Reentry Permit and pay the filing fee again.

If I have a reentry permit, can I still apply for US citizenship through naturalization?

If you remain outside the United States for more than 180 days, you would break the "continuous residency" requirement for US naturalization. The reentry permit preserves your permanent resident status but cannot be used to meet the continuous residency requirement for naturalization. You would have to wait for five years from your last trip of more than 180 days, or three years if married to a US citizen, to be able to apply for naturalization.

Assistance with Reentry Permit Application

If you would like assistance in applying for a reentry permit, World One Law Group would be happy to help! Just fill out the form on our Contact Us page. You will receive an email and/or text message that will allow you to schedule an appointment for a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.

About the Author

Karol Brown

Managing Attorney

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