A US permanent resident can travel outside the United States temporarily without an impact on their residency. However, if you are in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and will be spending 6 months or more outside the United States, you might need a Re-entry Permit.
What is a Re-entry Permit?
A Re-Entry Permit is proof of your intent to return to your US residence after a temporary stay outside the United States. Re-entry Permits are most commonly applied for by US permanent residents (green card holders) who have plans to be outside the United States for longer than six (6) months but not to exceed two (2) years. In addition, you must have the intent to maintain and not abandon your residence within the United States.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
- A Re-Entry Permit is NOT a fix for permanent foreign residence. The Re-entry Permit was designed for temporary long-term stays outside the United States and is not a fix for those planning on residing permanently outside the United States on a green card. If that is your plan, you should consider turning in your green card.
- A Re-Entry Permit does NOT preserve your permanent resident status. You are still required to maintain permanent ties to the United States and the intent to reside permanently in the United States. Permanent travel without the intent to reside in the United States may result in the abandonment of your permanent resident status.
When would I need a Re-entry Permit?
It is recommended that you obtain a Re-entry Permit if you have plans to be outside the United States for more than one (1) year for any reason. Some common reasons for obtaining a Re-entry Permit as a US permanent resident could include:
- Business or employment abroad
- Long-term vacation abroad
- Medical reasons
- Death or illness in the family
- Any other valid reason
How do I apply for a Re-entry Permit?
To apply for a Re-Entry Permit, you must file USCIS Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. The most common use of USCIS Form I-131 is for a Re-entry Permit. A Re-entry Permit may be sent to a consulate or embassy abroad for pick-up, but you must be physically present in the United States when you file for the Re-entry Permit (completing the biometric services requirement if applicable), and you must remain inside the US until the Re-entry Permit has been received by USCIS. This often takes at least 5 business days.
Before a Re-entry Permit will be approved, USCIS takes several factors into consideration, such as:
- Countries to be visited
- Prior Re-entry Permits
- The circumstances of the travel outside the United States
A case is considered “filed” when USCIS receives the case for processing and issues a receipt notice. If you are not physically present in the US when the case has been received for processing by USCIS, your case will be denied. This is one of the most common reasons a Re-entry Permit application is denied.
How long is my Re-Entry Permit good for?
A Form I-131 Re-entry Permit is commonly given for a one-year to two-year period.
What should I do if I happen to leave the United States for 6 months or more without a Re-Entry Permit?
Unfortunately, not all future travel and circumstances can be anticipated. Any absences from the US of six (6) months or more may impact the continuous residency for citizenship. Absences of one (1) year or more can lead to the abandonment of your US permanent residency.
In these cases, you should file USCIS Form I-131 for a Re-Entry Permit, and you should also consider filing USCIS Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residency.
Additional Outside Resources
- USCIS: I-131, Application for Travel Document
- USCIS: N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes
We Can Help!
If you are a US permanent resident and will be spending 6 months or more outside the United States, you must apply prior to leaving the United States. Our specialized practice has allowed us to gain particular expertise in the preparation, filing, and successful adjudication of Re-entry Permits for US permanent residents (green card holders)—especially Canadian citizens. We can help you comply with Form I-131 instructions and requirements, enabling you to successfully obtain your Re-entry Permit. As our client, you will benefit from our extensive experience, affordable flat fee, and accessibility. Contact us today for a free assessment to determine if a Re-entry Permit is required for your situation.