Re-Entry Permit

Humanitarian Visas

Summary

A re-entry permit is a document that green card holders should get to protect their residency status for up to two years if they plan on traveling outside the US for an extended time. Without it, the Department of Homeland Security can label you as having abandoned your permanent residency if you’ve been gone for over a year. By filing for a permit, you are indicating your intent to remain a resident of the US.

What Is a Re-Entry Permit?

A re-entry permit is a document that green card holders should get to protect their residency status for up to two years if they plan on traveling outside the US for an extended time. Without it, the Department of Homeland Security can label you as having abandoned your permanent residency if you’ve been gone for over a year. By filing for a permit, you are indicating your intent to remain a resident of the US.

What Does a Re-Entry Permit Look Like?

The re-entry permit is a booklet the same size as a passport, but that’s where the similarities end. It has a blue-green color and the words “TRAVEL DOCUMENT” are written on the front. Written inside is the statement of your intent and the date you filed for re-entry. Based on this information, you can figure out how long the permit remains valid.

Can I Use It as a Main Travel Document?

Many countries may allow you to use a US re-entry permit like a passport, but you should first confirm if they do before traveling. Since it is a booklet similar to the passport, it can contain visas and stamps. It is also a valid option if you don’t plan on getting a home country passport.

Do I Still Need a Re-Entry Permit if I Am a Naturalized Citizen?

No, naturalized US citizens do not need to have a re-entry permit. It is only for green card holders and those still applying for naturalization. You can travel outside the country for an extended time without any worry. You will retain your US citizen status permanently.

What Happens if I Don’t Get a Re-Entry Permit?

Not getting a re-entry permit puts your residency status at greater risk and subjects you to sudden judgments like abandonment.

For example, you may encounter a medical emergency when you are outside the U.S. that prevents you from traveling back to your home in the U.S. You extend your stay from six months to one year before returning to the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security may label you as having abandoned your permanent resident status, and if so, you will potentially lose your residency status. If you lose your residency, you will have to restart the immigration process from step one.

Even if you plan on returning to the US after a short time, your permanent residence status will be at risk if you also live in another country. Having a re-entry permit tells authorities that you are not abandoning your residency.

How Do I Apply for a Re-Entry Permit?

You will submit an Application for Travel Document or Form I-131 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Additional required forms and other instructions are available on the USCIS website. Make sure to file well in advance of your planned trip.

The cost for filing for a US re-entry permit application (I-131) is $575. Applicants from the ages 14-79 must also submit biometrics, which includes a fee of $85.

Can I Apply For a New Re-Entry Permit or an Extension if I’m Outside the US?

No, you may only apply for a permit if you’re physically present in the US. Many make the mistake of leaving before realizing they need a re-entry permit. You should apply for a re-entry permit as a safety precaution.

You also can’t submit any biometrics while you’re outside the United States, or you may get a denial.

The same applies to a US re-entry permit extension. Many green card holders make the mistake of thinking that an expired re-entry permit will work. Others believe that they can apply for an extension outside the US. You must return to the US within the time limit and get a new permit if you plan to extend your stay.

You must submit any old re-entry permits to the USCIS before applying for a new one. The USCIS will not issue a new one to anyone who already owns a valid permit for security purposes. If you don’t have the old re-entry permit due to an unavoidable reason, you can explain it in your second application.

It will be harder to get approval for a second re-entry permit. You will need to justify why you need to extend your stay further. The second application is not a formality renewal.

Do I Need To Be in the US During the Approval of the Re-Entry Permit?

If you still have a pending status for Form I-131, you do not need to wait in the US. As long as you have submitted your biometrics, you can travel. You can indicate that you want to pick up the permit at a specific US Embassy or consulate and have the document shipped to a DHS office overseas.

Will Staying Outside the US Affect My Application for Naturalization?

Yes, if you stay for more than one year outside the US, you lose the time accrued for being a continuous US resident, which you need for citizenship. You’ll have to wait and reapply for naturalization.

Is It Necessary To Have a Re-Entry Permit if I’m Only Traveling for a Few Weeks?

You don’t need to apply for a US re-entry permit if you’re only going on a short vacation or a business trip. It also isn’t necessary if you’re going to visit relatives for a couple of weeks.

However, always bring your permanent resident card with you. You will need to present your permanent resident card when returning to the US.

Can I Still Lose My Residency Even if I Have a Re-Entry Permit?

You will only lose your residency if the Department of Homeland Security believe you have abandoned your residency for some other grounds, such as concluding that you’ve relocated to another country. To avoid any further issues, you should maintain your clear connections to the US. You can do this by maintaining a US mailing address, having family in the US, filing taxes, or maintaining US employment.

Next Steps

Trying to apply for a re-entry permit can be an intimidating process. However, it is a necessary action to ensure that you protect your permanent resident status. If you want help with the process, you can reach out to us for assistance. We’ve helped in many immigration cases and can provide our expertise to your situation.

Locations

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(626) 795-6777

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(415) 568-3777

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+011 (632) 8-663-2907

China

(86) 532-8257957777