How to Get Reentry Permit for Green Card Holders

If you’re a lawful permanent resident of the United States and you intend to leave the country for more than a year, it is always advisable to apply for a re-entry permit. This is one of the best ways to safeguard your permanent resident card.

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of obtaining a re-entry permit and why this permit is essential to lawful permanent residents.

Key Takeaways 

  • You should file for re-entry permit no later than 60 days before your intended travel date.
  • A re-entry permit is for green card holders who plan on traveling abroad for more than a year.
  • An Advance Parole is for individuals with pending green cards who wish to travel abroad.
  • Fill out File Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to apply for re-entry permit.

What is a Green Card Re-Entry Permit?

A green card re-entry permit is a travel document that allows green card holders to maintain their U.S. residence when traveling outside the United States for up to two years.

What Is the Purpose of a Re-Entry Permit?

After being granted a green card, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require that you follow certain steps to safeguard your green card and potentially become a U.S. citizen. One of these requirements is that you should not abandon your resident status

The term ‘abandoning a status’ means you’ve done something to suggest that you no longer need your green card, such as staying out of the country for more than a year. 

Therefore, having a re-entry permit proves that even though you intend to be away from the United States for more than a year, you still want to keep your green card. 

You can apply for a re-entry permit but only in the United States. If you are out of the country, you will need to apply for an SB-1 Visa also known as a returning resident visa, at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

How to Apply for a Re-Entry Permit 

To apply for a re-entry permit: 

File Form I-131, Application for Travel Document

This form collects information about your trip, including but not limited to:

  • The time you have spent outside the United States since becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR);
  • Whether you have filed Federal income tax since becoming an LPR;
  • Countries you plan to visit.

You will also need to provide several supporting documents, including but not limited to your photo I.D., proof of your current status, documents justifying your re-entry permit application (i.e., the reason for traveling outside of the United States), etc. 

The exact supporting documents you will need depend on numerous factors. Check out this instruction document from the USCIS for more details. 

When to File Form I-131

Time is of the essence when filing Form I-131. Again, keep in mind that you cannot file this form once you leave the country. The USCIS recommends that you file no later than 60 days before your intended travel date. 

Where to Mail Form I-131

The USCIS mailing address will depend on the nature of your application. When filing Form I-131 alone, you will need to mail it to USCIS’s offices in Chicago. 

Here’s a list of mailing addresses for each filing category for Form I-131. 

Form I-131 Filing Fees

The filing fees for Form I-131 vary depending on factors such as your eligibility category. Generally, you should expect to pay anywhere between $105 to $660. This includes the biometrics fee. 

That said, it is important to note that these fees are subject to change. For this reason, always check the correct filing fees on the USCIS website before submitting your application. 

Form I-131 Processing Time 

The processing time for Form I-131 varies depending on multiple factors, such as government backlogs. For this reason, you can always use the case processing tool available on the USCIS website to find out when you should expect your case to be processed. As of September 2022, it takes about 12.5 months to process this reentry permit application.

Earlier, we mentioned that you must apply for a re-entry permit no later than 60 days from the travel date. But what should you do if the USCIS fails to process your application within 60 days? For most green card holders, this is a genuine concern, given that the average processing time for Form I-131 as of September 2022 is 12.5 months. 

You do not need to be physically present in the United States for the USCIS to approve your application. Instead, you can still travel out of the country just as long as you filed this application while still in the United States, and the USCIS also obtained your photos and biometrics. 

In that case, you can choose to have the travel document sent to the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate, or DHS offices overseas after processing. 

Re-Entry Permit For Green Card Holders FAQs 

Do I Need a Re-Entry Permit if My Green Card Application is Still Pending?

You cannot apply for a re-entry permit if your green card petition is still pending. If you must travel out of the United States while your green card is still pending, you will need an Advance Parole.

Do I Need to File a New Re-Entry Permit if I Already Have an Old One?

The USCIS cannot issue you with a new re-entry permit if you already have an old one unless you return the old one. In addition, the government agency cannot extend a re-entry permit.

If the re-entry permit has expired, you do not need to surrender it when applying for a new one. 

Can I Replace a Lost Re-Entry Permit?

You can apply for a replacement if you request this in your application for the travel document. In addition, if your re-entry permit has expired, you do not need to return it to the USCIS when you apply for a new one.

What Happens if I as a Green Card Holder Stay Outside of the United States for More Than a Year Without a Re-Entry Permit?

Staying out of the country for more than a year is considered an abandonment of status. As a result, you may be referred to an immigration judge to decide whether you abandoned your status. 

Can I Submit My Fingerprints to the USCIS If I Am Already Outside the United States?

You cannot submit your biometrics if you are already outside the U.S. When you submit your application for a re-entry permit, the USCIS will refer you to the nearest Application Support Center for your biometrics appointment in the United States.

This explains why filling out this application while still in the country is important, so you do not miss such crucial appointments. Failure to provide your biometrics will lead to an automatic denial. 

Can I Use My Re-Entry Permit as My Passport?

Yes, you can but as long as you have a valid reentry permit. One of the many reasons for applying for this permit is when you cannot or do not wish to apply for a passport in your home country. 

How Long Can I Stay Outside of The United States With a Re-Entry Permit?

It is important to note that having a re-entry permit does not mean you can stay outside of the United States for as long as you wish and return without any questions. The re-entry permit usually comes with an expiry date that is normally up to 2 years.

How Many Times Can I Apply for a Re-Entry Permit With the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

There is no official limit on the number of times you can apply for a reentry permit. However, if you have been outside the country for four of the past five years, your reentry permit will be valid for only a year, unless you are a U.S. government official or an elite athlete. 

Does Having a Re-Entry Permit as a Lawful Permanent Resident Mean I Can Return to the U.S. Without Being Questioned?

Not really. A reentry permit only confirms that you did not abandon your status when you left the United States. This document does not guarantee that you will reenter the country without any questions asked.

The Customs and Border Protection officials or officials from the Department of Homeland Security at the point of entry have the right to question your return if they have a reason to do so. A good example is if they believe you planned to relocate permanently.

You may be denied reentry into the United States (even with a re-entry permit) if you become inadmissible during your trip overseas or after leaving the U.S. 

Common reasons for inadmissibility include:

  • You committed a crime;
  • You violated U.S. immigration laws;
  • You were involved in terrorism;
  • You caught an infectious disease.

Can I Receive a Re-Entry Permit if I Am a Conditional Green Card Holder?

Yes, you may be eligible for a reentry permit even as a conditional permanent resident. However, the permit’s validity will not be longer than the remainder of your conditional permanent residency period.

Is a Re-Entry Permit the Same as Advance Parole?

No. A re-entry permit and Advance Parole are two different documents. 

You need a re-entry permit if you are a lawful permanent resident intending to travel outside the United States for more than a year. You need an Advance Parole if your green card application is still pending and you wish to travel outside the United States.

Who Cannot Apply For Advance Parole?

You cannot apply for Advance Parole if you: 

  • sought asylum in the United States but do not intend to adjust your status;
  • are currently going through deportation proceedings (removal);
  • are a beneficiary of a private immigration bill approved by the U.S. Congress;
  • have a valid refugee document or a re-entry permit;
  • have a J visa or a visa that requires that you reside in a foreign country;
  • do not have a valid immigration status in the United States.

What Happens If I Travel Outside of the United States Without an Advance Parole?

If you travel outside the United States without advance parole, the USCIS will terminate your pending green card application. Contact an experienced immigration attorney or immigration law firm to learn more about your options if you plan on taking long trips abroad. You may have to pay legal fees for their advice but it is much better than risking your permanent residence.

How Do I Apply for a Reentry Permit From Outside the United States?

To apply for a re entry permits from outside the United States, fill out Form DS-117, pay the filing fees, and then provide copies of your permanent resident card or reentry permit to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

You will also submit the following supporting documents:

  • Evidence of last travel outside of the United States;
  • Proof of your ties to the U.S. and intention to return;
  • Proof that you stayed outside of the U.S. for reasons beyond your control, such as medical incapacitation 

A consular officer will review your application to determine whether you qualify for returning resident status.