A Reentry Permit is a travel document that looks similar to a passport and can function like a passport. Lawful permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who plan to travel outside the United States for more than one year, but less than two years, may apply for a Reentry Permit.
It’s a multiple use travel document, meaning that it can be used several times (during the valid period) to reenter the United States.
File Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, from within the United States to apply for a permit.
How a Reentry Permit Helps
A Reentry Permit has two basic functions:
- The travel document allows a U.S. permanent resident to reenter the United States after traveling abroad for longer than one year but less than two years.
- It also can serve like a passport for a U.S. permanent resident if he/she has no passport and cannot obtain it from the country of his/her nationality.
Without a Reentry Permit, a permanent resident that is outside the country for more than a year will most likely be denied reentry into the U.S. on the ground that he/she has abandoned his or her permanent resident status. After a one year absence from the United States, a green card is not valid for reentry. The permit is intended to prevent this problem.
RECOMMENDED: Benefits of a Reentry Permit for Permanent Residents
Application for Reentry Permit
To obtain a Reentry Permit, the applicant should file Form I-131. You must file Form I-131 while you are physically present in the United States. It will generally take at least 90 days for USCIS to approve the request. Expedited processing may be available for certain applicants.
Period of Validity for a Permit
In most cases, USCIS will issue a Reentry Permit that’s valid for a period of two years. However, if you have been outside the United States for more than four of the last five years since becoming a permanent resident the permit will be limited to one year, except that a permit with a validity of two years may be issued to the following:
- a permanent resident whose travel is on the order of the U.S. government, other than an exclusion, deportation, removal, or rescission order;
- a permanent resident employed by a public international organization of which the United States is a member by treaty or statute; or
- a permanent resident who is a professional athlete and regularly competes in the United States and worldwide.
For permanent residents, excessive time spent outside the United States can lead to questions about residency. Without strong ties to the U.S., permanent residents can risk abandonment of permanent resident status.
Permits for Conditional Residents
A Reentry Permit issued to a conditional resident is valid for two years from the date of issuance, or to the date the conditional resident must apply for removal of the conditions on his or her status, whichever date comes first.
Not a Cure All
Obtaining a Reentry Permit doesn’t make a permanent resident “immune” from abandonment issues. Even with this travel document, permanent residents can be at risk of losing permanent resident status through abandonment. Permanent residents must continue to maintain ties to the United States and the travel must be temporary in nature.
RECOMMENDED: Green Card Abandonment: Risks of Travel Abroad
Even with a Reentry Permit, a permanent resident’s absence of more than 180 days from the United States may disrupt the 5-year continuous residence requirement for naturalization. Instead, some permanent residents may be eligible to file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes. Use this form if you are a lawful permanent resident who must leave the United States for a period of one year or longer for certain employment purposes and you want to preserve your status as an immigrant in order to pursue naturalization.
As a permanent resident of the United States you may travel abroad for periods of less than one year and reenter the U.S. with only a valid, unexpired green card. However, you may need to apply for a Reentry Permit in certain situations. There are some things you should know prior to travel after Reentry Permit application.
Although you can have the Reentry Permit mailed to a U.S. consulate office or DHS office overseas, this can be counterintuitively slow. Many attorneys recommend having USCIS mail the travel document to another family member in the United States. That trusted family member can forward it to the applicant outside the United States.
When you file your Form I-131 to obtain a Reentry Permit, USCIS will notify you when to appear for your biometrics appointment. The biometrics appointment must be conducted in the United States. If you leave the United States before you provide your biometrics, USCIS may deny your application.
If you have an extraordinary situation that requires urgent travel, USCIS may grant expedited processing in certain situations.