US Immigration News

Reentry Permit Benefits for US Permanent Residents

5 minute read
"As a permanent resident of the US, you are allowed to travel outside the country and reenter by using your Green Card at the Port of Entry. You are required to show proof of your immigration status to the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  May 23, 2021
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As a permanent resident of the US, you are allowed to travel outside the country and reenter by using your Green Card at the Port of Entry. You are required to show proof of your immigration status to the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry. 

The CBP officer determines if you have done anything to lose your immigration status. However, in certain circumstances, you might be required to attain a reentry permit for permanent residence instead of your Green Card. 

What is the Purpose of a Reentry Permit?

The reentry permit establishes that you did not mean to abandon your permanent resident status in the US and it allows you to return to the US after traveling abroad for up to 2 years without having to apply for a returning resident visa. 

As a lawful permanent resident in the US, you are required to maintain your permanent residency. Your Green Card will technically become invalid if you are absent from the country for more than a year and it can create suspicion that you have residency elsewhere. This creates an issue at the reentry with the CBP official.

A reentry permit serves as a travel document for permanent residents who are unable to get a passport from their home country. This usually happens to permanent residents who are stateless or have fled their home country due to fear of persecution.

In certain cases, you might be able to use the reentry permit to visit a certain country that will not accept the passport of your home country. 

Who Does Not Require a Reentry Permit?

Some permanent residents are allowed to reenter the country with just their Green Cards even if they have been absent for more than a year. This exception is for civilian employees of US government agencies returning from assignments abroad and their spouses and children. This is also for spouses and children of a member of the US armed forces. 

When is the Reentry Permit Required for Permanent Residents?

Your Green Card will not be valid for reentry to the US if you are returning after a year or more of staying abroad. Your permanent resident status may even be considered abandoned for absences shorter than 1 year if it is known that you have taken residence in another country. 

The CBP officer must determine whether your travel abroad was temporary. For this, you must have the intention of returning to the US. Having connections to the US in the form of family, employment, filing taxes or involvement in the community can demonstrate that you have strong connections to the US and you intend to return. 

The CBP officer may ask you the following questions to determine your connection:

  • What is the purpose of your departure?
  • When are you returning from your trip abroad?
  • What is your place of employment?
  • Where is your actual home and property ties?
  • What are your family ties to the US?
  • Have you filed income tax returns as a US resident?
  • What was the proportion of your time you spent in the US and abroad?

What Happens If You Do Not Have a Reentry Permit?

If you are returning to the US after a year or more without a reentry permit, then it is likely that you will be interviewed by the CBP officials. If they are not satisfied with your answers, they may refer your case to the Immigration Court for removal proceedings. 

This will generally result in a time hassle and may even cost you expensive fees and an attorney bill. All of this can be avoided by applying for a re-entry permit before returning to the US.

How to Apply for a Reentry Permit?

You are required to fill out Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) to get a re-entry permit. You must submit the filing fee of $575 and provide biometric information. This application can only be filed from within the US. The USCIS will mail you the re-entry permit to your US mailing address. 

This reentry permit is usually valid for 2 years from the date of issuance. However, if you have been outside the US for more than 4 years since becoming a lawful permanent resident, then the permit issued will only be valid for 1 year since the date of issuance. 

The USCIS may make exceptions if you are employed by a public international organization of which the US is a member of or if you are a professional athlete. A conditional permanent resident may also apply for a reentry permit, however, the permit will be valid until their conditional residency expires. 

A reentry permit can not be extended. Therefore, you must apply for a new one if you are returning to the US later than planned. The reentry permit is processed within 90 days. However, if you are traveling on an urgent basis, you can request expedited processing.

You will be required to provide a cover letter explaining why you require an expedited reentry permit and include evidence to support your claims. 

What is the Effect on Naturalization of a Reentry Permit?

If you are traveling abroad extensively with or without a re-entry permit, it can affect your eligibility to apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process. US citizenship requires you to continuously and physically be present in the country for some time. Continuous travel can disrupt your ability to become a US citizen. 

The following conditions apply to foreign travel and its effect on naturalization:

  • A trip abroad that lasts less than 6 months will not affect your continuous residency
  • A trip that lasts more than a year will always affect your continuous residence

To apply for naturalization, you must have 30 months of continuous, physical presence in the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Therefore, plan your travel abroad carefully!

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