If an individual is a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who is planning to travel outside of the United States for a year or more, they are required to apply for a Re-entry Permit prior to departing. If an individual does not apply for a Re-entry Permit before departing, it is possible that their LPR status may be considered abandoned and if they wish to re-enter the United States, they should be prepared to refile for LPR status.

A permanent resident is an individual who holds a green card and has been granted the right to remain in the United States on a permanent basis. A lawful permanent resident is permitted to live and work in the U.S. However, a LPR is not a United States citizen and, therefore, does not enjoy the same privileges as U.S. citizens, including the right to vote in elections.

What is a Re-entry Permit?

A Re-entry Permit is a document which states that an individual did not intend to abandon their LPR status. It also permits the individual to apply for reentry into the United States after having been abroad for a year or more.

If an individual has been traveling for up to two years, a R-entry Permit allows them to forgo obtaining a returning resident visa. Typically, a Re-entry Permit is valid for two years after it is issued.

Who Uses Re-entry Permits?

Individuals who are permanent residents or conditional permanent residents will need a Re-entry Permit when they travel abroad for one year or more. An LPR is permitted to leave and return to the United States, although there are limitations.

In some cases, a Re-entry Permit may prevent the following issues from arising:

  • Permanent resident cards being invalid for reentry into the U.S. if the individual is absent for 1 year or more; and
  • If an individual takes up residence in another country for an absence of less than one year, their permanent residence may be deemed abandoned.

How Do I Get a Re-entry Permit?

As of January 2018, in order to receive a Re-entry Permit, an individual must be prepared to file a Form I-131 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Along with the form, an individual must provide the following:

  • Copy of an identity document that shows a photo, name, and date of birth; 
    • An I-94 Arrival Departure Record is not acceptable.
  • Copy of the front and back of the individual’s green card, or Form I-551 form; and
  • A $575 reentry permit fee written out to the United States Department of Homeland Security.

An individual must also be able to provide the following information:

  • Where they are going;
  • Where they will be staying, a physical address; and
  • The address of a United States Embassy at their destination.

Individuals who apply for a Re-entry Permit should also be prepared to submit a biometrics requirement as well as pay an $85 biometrics service fee. All applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to be fingerprinted and there may also be other biometrics requirements.

Can I Renew My Re-entry Permit?

No, Re-entry Permits cannot be renewed or extended. An individual will need to apply for a new one. 

If an individual has a valid reentry permit, they will be required to send it in if they are applying for a new permit. If an individual wishes to renew their permit due to an error on the permit that was caused by USCIS, they can have it corrected without any additional charges. If the individual made a mistake and needs to correct it, they will be required to pay another filing fee.

How has COVID-19 Affected the Reentry Permit Application Process?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on all aspects of life, including the Re-entry Permit application process. The USCIS has not given any exemptions for permanent residents to reside abroad without having a valid reentry permit during this time.

There may be travel restrictions in place during the pandemic. Some states may require a mandatory 14 day self-quarantine. If an individual is having trouble traveling during this time, an attorney may be able to assist them with their application process and determining current travel restrictions as well as office openings.

Due to the pandemic, many offices are operating with a reduced staff and are even closed. It is important to check the current status of the operations of the office with which an individual is applying.

Many United States residents have found themselves stuck abroad due to the pandemic. This may be due to illness, quarantine, or even cancelled flights.

At this time, immigration authorities have not provided a blanket statement or a rule regarding how they are treating returning residents whose long absence were due to pandemic issues. It is important to note that a Re-entry Permit can only help in these situations if the individual applied for one before departing from the United States.

When an individual returns to the United States, they should be prepared to show documentation that overcomes any new inadmissibility issues which may have come up, such as a job change or a new health concern. An attorney can assist with these issues.

An individual should not attempt to return to the United States if they are infected with COVID-19. They will be found inadmissible due to having a communicable disease of public health significance, or will be temporarily quarantined.

Even if an individual returns to the United States prior to the 180 day time period ending, U.S. officials can still decide that the individual intended to make their home elsewhere, in other words, they abandoned their United States residence. An individual should bring documentation showing that the United States is still their primary residence. Documents may include:

  • United States tax returns;
  • A home mortgage or lease;
  • Evidence of employment; and
  • Other documents from the United States.

It is also important for the individual to bring written documentation of their reason for not returning to the U.S. This may include doctor’s statements or notes and copies of notifications that flights were cancelled or other travel issues.

If a United States immigration official believes the individual has abandoned their permanent residence, they are not likely to send them back immediately but will instead let the individual into the U.S. with a notice that deportation, or removal, proceedings are being initiated, called a Notice to Appear (NTA). 

If this occurs, the individual will be required to appear in immigration court. The individual will then have the opportunity to show the court that they did not intend to abandon their residence. If this occurs, it is extremely important to hire an attorney.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of an immigration lawyer with any reentry permit issues you may face. Immigration laws are very strict and have become more so in recent years, and with the pandemic. 

Your immigration lawyer can assist you in preventing serious issues as well as putting your mind at ease prior to travel. Your lawyer can assist you with any forms and applications to ensure they are complete and accurate.