Reentry Permits – Preserving Your Green Card Status While Residing Abroad

There are a number of reasons why a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) may need to leave the U.S. for an extended period of time – work, education, a family matter. Despite the circumstances, a green card does not guarantee that you will be able to return to the U.S. without encountering some issues at the border or port of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be evaluating your intent to maintain permanent resident status – and if your intent is called into question, you may have a problem. It is important to take the proper precautions before returning to the states after a lengthy absence to avoid jeopardizing your LPR status.

A reentry permit is a travel document that allows an LPR return to the U.S. after an extended stay abroad (six months or more). You may want to file an application for a reentry permit if:

  • You will be leaving the U.S. for a work assignment or to attend school;
  • You need to take care of a family member who resides abroad;
  • You have to tie up some loose ends outside of the U.S., such as fulfilling an employment contract, resolving a real estate matter or waiting for your children to finish the school year;
  • You have been warned by CBP that you have been spending too much time outside of the United States – in some cases, a CBP officer will make a notation in your passport that you have been “advised” about the residency requirements as an LPR.

How to Apply for a Reentry Permit

Obtaining a reentry permit involves filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. You must be physically present in the U.S. in order to file the application with USCIS and it should be done as far in advance as possible. (According to USCIS, you should file no fewer than 60 days before intending to travel.) Ideally, you would be applying for a reentry permit as a preemptive measure in anticipation of an extended trip abroad.

There are scenarios where planning ahead is not a possibility (for example, a relative suddenly falls ill and needs immediate assistance). If necessary, you could leave the U.S. after filing and return to complete your biometrics appointment. Applicants must complete biometrics within 120 days of filing or their application will be considered abandoned. A reentry permit may be sent to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad for you to pick up, if you make this request at the time of filing.

Proof of Intent to Return as LPR

When an LPR re-enters the U.S., ultimately, CBP will be evaluating their intent. Permanent residents should be able to provide evidence supporting their intention to return to the U.S. The following can be used to demonstrate your ties to the U.S.:

  • Proof of employment
  • Proof of residence (a current lease, property deed, record of payments for mortgage payments or property taxes)
  • Family ties/dependents remaining in the U.S. (copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, family photos)
  • Tax returns you have filed in the U.S.
  • A valid U.S. driver's license
  • Recent bank statements from you U.S. bank account

It is also advisable to carry proof of the temporary nature of your trip abroad, such as an employment contract, your return ticket and travel itinerary.

Note that the following is considered evidence of abandonment of residence in the U.S.:

  • Disposition of property or business affiliations in the U.S.;
  • Family, property or business ties abroad;
  • Conduct while outside the U.S., such as employment by a foreign employer, voting in foreign elections, running for political office in foreign country; and
  • Failure to file U.S. tax returns. [9 FAM 42.22 N1.4].

Potential Consequences of Residing Outside the U.S. Without a Reentry Permit

If you opt to travel extensively without securing a reentry permit and CBP suspects that your travel may not be temporary in nature, it could be decided that you have abandoned your status. CBP may advise you to surrender your permanent resident status and execute a voluntary abandonment form.  You could also face the risk of being placed in formal removal proceedings to have an Immigration Judge determine whether you should be permitted to retain their permanent resident status.

If you are an LPR who has been placed in removal proceedings for abandoning your permanent resident status or have been residing outside the U.S. for a significant amount of time without a reentry permit, please contact our office to schedule a consultation to review your best strategy/approach to re-entering the U.S. on your next entry.