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Re-entry Permit Basics: How to Preserve Your Green Card During Long-term Travel

Lawful permanent residents and conditional residents (green card holders) are required to physically reside in the United States, except for brief trips abroad. However, some lawful permanent residents may have continuing needs (such as family, employment or business) to reside abroad and enter the U.S. infrequently. In such a circumstance, the lawful permanent resident needs to ensure that their green card does not become invalid. One way to do this is to obtain a re-entry permit. Below we will answer some frequently asked questions regarding re-entry permits:
What is a re-entry permit?
A re-entry permit is a travel document issued to lawful permanent residents and conditional residents who must reside outside of the U.S. for more than six months.
Who needs a re-entry permit?
Lawful permanent residents and conditional residents require re-entry permits to enter the country after an absence from the U.S. of more than six months.
How do I file for a re-entry permit?
You must file Form I-131, Application for a Travel Document, complete with supporting documentation, photos and applicable fees with USCIS. You must also be physically present in the U.S. in order to file.
What is the processing time for a re-entry permit?
Currently, the re-entry permit processing time is between four to six months; however, this is subject to change. Re-entry permits should be filed no less than 60 days prior to travel.
How long is a re-entry permit valid?
For lawful permanent residents, a re-entry permit is valid for two years from the date of issuance. For conditional residents, a re-entry permit is valid for two years from the date of issuance or until the date the conditional resident must apply for the removal of conditions, whichever comes first.
What happens if I do not apply for a re-entry permit before I travel outside of the U.S.?
If you stay outside of the United States for one year or more and did not apply for a re-entry permit before traveling, you may be considered to have abandoned your permanent resident status. If this happens, you may be referred to appear before an immigration judge to decide whether or not you have abandoned your status.
Does a re-entry permit guarantee admission to the U.S.?
No, a re-entry permit does not guarantee admission to the U.S. Foreign nationals with re-entry permits are still subject to the immigration inspection process at the port of entry.
What should I do if my re-entry permit has expired?
Re-entry permits cannot be extended. If your permit has expired you will need to apply for a new one.
If you are a lawful permanent resident and you plan to spend more than 183 days in a year outside of the United States, you should contact our office so that our experienced attorneys can help you determine the best way to protect your status while you are away.