If you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States, you have the right to live in the U.S. and travel freely outside of the U.S. However, certain types of travel can jeopardize your residence status.
If you plan to be outside the country for longer than six months, it is recommended that you obtain a re-entry permit before leaving on any trip lasting longer than six months. A re-entry permit can serve as proof that you are still a lawful permanent resident and eligible to reenter the country upon your return.
Read this detailed guide carefully if you wish to learn more about re-entry permits, what’s needed to apply for one, and the benefits for green card holders.
What Is a Re-Entry Permit?
For those with green cards, a re-entry permit is important if you wish to travel outside of the country frequently. A USA re-entry permit is a permit for green card holders to maintain their U.S. residence without any issues while traveling abroad for up to a period of two years.
These permits can only be issued to green card holders while they are within the U.S. Unfortunately, if you are a green card holder and find yourself outside of the country for longer than two years, a re-entry permit can be issued, and you could lose permanent residence.
A re-entry permit ultimately lets the United States government know that you intend to return to your permanent residence after an extended trip abroad. With this type of permit, Customs at the airport won’t consider this absence if you forfeit your permanent residence within the country.
Who Needs a Re-Entry Permit?
If you are a green card holder, it’s recommended that you apply for a re-entry permit before taking a trip abroad for extended periods of time. The typical timeframe that a re-entry permit will be beneficial for trips that are longer than a year but shorter than two years.
Some of those who should apply for re-entry permits include:
- Someone who will frequently be traveling in and out of the country for extended amounts of time
- Someone who can’t get a passport from their home country, only if the green card holder has claimed asylum
As stated above, a re-entry permit can be used if a lawful permanent resident cannot or does not wish to get a passport from their home country. The re-entry permit replaces the passport from the legal permanent resident’s home country. However, there are other situations where a re-entry permit may be required, which we explain more in detail below.
Situations in Which a Re-Entry Permit May Be Required
Your green card will remain valid for trips that a green card holder will rake that will last less than a year. This means that you won’t need to apply for a re-entry permit back into the country. However, even though you don’t need a re-entry permit, you should still maintain clear ties to the U.S. to show you haven’t abandoned your permanent residence.
A re-entry permit is expected for trips that could last two years or longer. Green card holders must apply for these permits while within the U.S. This is important to remember because re-entry permits are offered to green card holders outside of the U.S.
Benefits of a Re-Entry Permit
Applying for a green card re-entry permit can bring someone many benefits. There are three main advantages of a re-entry permit for green card holders. These benefits include:
- Easier travel: With this type of permit, you will be able to leave the country for longer periods of time and re-enter the country with no issues or restrictions with visas.
- Maintaining permanent residence status: These permits show that you, as the green card holder, are not abandoning your home in the United States. Furthermore, you will only be traveling for extended periods outside of the country and are fully intending to return to settle in the U.S.
- It is upheld as a travel document: Sometimes, if someone cannot get a passport for their respective country, a re-entry permit can be issued. This way, your re-entry card can function similarly to a passport or a valid travel document.
Requirements to Get a Re-Entry Permit
The biggest requirement to get a re-entry permit is to be a valid green card holder. Re-entry permits aren’t offered to those who have applied for a green card but haven’t yet received it yet. The requirements of applying for a re-entry permit include submitting these documents:
- Filing Form I-131 for a re-entry permit, which is the application for a travel document
- Two passports like photographs
- An official photo ID or official copy of your photo ID that shows important information such as your name, picture, and date of birth (This can include a passport, driver’s license, or permanent resident card)
- A photocopy of Form I-797 if you are unable to submit your permanent resident card for any given reason
How to Apply for a Re-Entry Permit
When it comes to applying for a re-entry permit, there are a few steps you should follow. These steps include:
- Filing out all the needed and required documents
- Completing the necessary forms and travel documents
- Paying the application fee
- Scheduling and attending a biometrics appointment
- Submitting all the documents and fees listed above to USCIS
Along with these above steps, applying for a re-entry permit to the U.S. is a bit more extensive than it looks. Of course, filing Form I-131 is necessary, submitting your permanent resident card, and paying the application fees are important, but evidence to prove permanent residency in the U.S. is crucial.
In order to do so, you must submit boarding passes for flights back into the country, bill statements, housing contracts, tax returns, auto insurance, or store receipts to show that you are, in fact, a lawful permanent resident of the country. Additionally, a statement of why you need to travel abroad for extended periods is necessary.
How Much Does a Re-Entry Permit Cost?
The costs of a re-entry permit are the cost that’s needed to file Form I-131 and a biometrics fee. Filing Form I-131 will be a fee of $575, and the biometric fee, as usual, is $85. For a re-entry permit, the biometrics processing time is about six weeks.
Re-Entry Permit Processing Time
If you are wondering how long it takes to get a re-entry permit, you should know the times can sometimes vary. If you need to travel internationally, it’s a good idea to apply for a re-entry permit at least 60 days before you plan to leave the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends applying more than 60 days before your trip.
This is because the re-entry permit processing time varies depending on the number of applications received, the correctness of your form, and other unavoidable circumstances.
How Long Is a Re-Entry Permit Valid?
Your re-entry permit expires two years after it is issued. It lets you stay outside the U.S. for a maximum of two years, after which it expires. The expiration date starts when it is issued and not when you leave the U.S.
However, if you are a permanent resident and want to remain outside the U.S. for more than two years, you may be able to get an extension of your re-entry permit. USCIS will give you an additional two years to remain outside the country as long as you have not been gone for more than six total years since becoming a permanent resident.
You can renew this permit once before having to return to the U.S. If you stay abroad for more than six years overall, however, you will have to return to the U.S. in order to be eligible for another re-entry permit extension.
Additionally, it’s important to note that re-entry permits cannot be extended. And if you need another one, you must apply again and pay the required fees.
Can You Extend a Re-Entry Permit?
No, you cannot extend re-entry permits. As stated above, if your re-entry permit expires, you must apply for a new one if you wish to travel outside of the country again for extended periods of time. However, you can renew your permit.
A re-entry permit is valid for two years. Once issued, the re-entry permit allows you to stay out of the United States for two years, after which it expires. The date of expiration is counted from the day it is issued, not from the day you leave the United States.
After two years, permanent residents who are outside the country can apply for an additional two-year re-entry permit. They do not have to return to the U.S. in order to renew their re-entry permit; instead, they can always apply for a third, fourth, and fifth re-entry permit once the previous one expires.
Even though re-entry permits are recommended for most green card holders, there are some instances where you may not need to apply for one. Special considerations can occur, which include:
- Those who are employees of the U.S. government and are returning from assignments associated with work, abroad
- A spouse or child of a civilian employee working from the government who is also returning from projects abroad
- The children or spouses of U.S. military members
Difference Between Advance Parole & Re-Entry Permit
This is a common question that many people will ask when deciding whether or not to apply for a re-entry permit; what is the difference between advance parole and re-entry permits? There is a big difference between these two, but only in the aspect of who is able to recommend each.
For starters, advance parole is an immigration document that allows an alien to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad for certain reasons. A re-entry permit allows a permanent resident to freely enter or leave the country.
Additionally, advance parole and re-entry permits look different because advance parole is a single piece of paper with an alien’s photo on it, whereas a re-entry permit looks like a passport.
Apply for Your Re-Entry Permit With Our Help Today!
By becoming a U.S. citizen, you can avoid the difficulties of returning to the United States after long trips abroad. As a citizen, you will have the freedom to travel without seeking re-entry permits or needing to show proof of sustained residence within the country.
To become a citizen, you must go through a naturalization process, but it can be made easier by working with an immigration lawyer or attorney. Or, seeking the assistance of our team at FileRight could be in the green card holders’ best interest.
If you wish to begin today, contact us for assistance in applying for re-entry permits.