A permanent resident or a conditional resident in the US who plans to travel abroad for a period of more than one year, needs to get a reentry permit. If your stay outside the US is going to be for a period less than one year, you do not need a reentry permit, your green card will suffice.
The Form I-131 is used to apply for a reentry permit. It has to be filed 60 days before you travel, while you are still in the US. Once the application is accepted you will be scheduled to appear for a biometrics appointment. You can leave the US even before a decision is taken by the USCIS and the permit can be requested to be sent to a US Embassy, Consulate or Department of Homeland Security office abroad. This is possible when you furnish the necessary information in the application form requesting to receive it outside the US. However, if you leave before the biometrics appointment, your application may be denied.
Eligibility to Apply Using Form I-131
A conditional resident or a lawful permanent resident can apply for a reentry permit using Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. You cannot apply for a permit in case you already have a valid one unless the document is returned to the USCIS or until you prove that you have lost it. Also, if issuance of a travel document is prohibited to the area where you plan to travel in the Federal register, then you are not permitted to apply for a reentry permit.
In case you do not apply before leaving US and don’t return within one year, it is considered that the permanent resident/conditional resident status is abandoned by you.
Validity of Reentry Permit
Generally, a reentry permit can be used by lawful permanent residents to reenter US after a year or more of travel. The permit is valid for two years from the date of its issue. But in case you remain outside the US for more than 4 of the last 5 years of your permanent residence, then the permit is valid for one year only. Only for the following special cases the validity is for two years:
- If travel is on the command of the US government but not in case of deportation, removal or exclusion.
- If US is a member by treaty of the public international organization you are employed with.
- As a professional athlete regularly competing in US and abroad.
The validity of the reentry permit issued to conditional residents is for two years from the date of issuance of the permit or up to the date of application for the removal of conditions on residence.
There is extensions given for these permits.
Documents for Submission
Along with the application for a reentry permit, you need to submit the following:
- the current fees
- photocopy of your permanent resident card Form I-551 OR
- copy of proof of permanent residence or copy of biographic page of passport and visa page showing permanent residence OR
- temporary evidence of permanent resident status or copy of Form I-797, notice of receipt of an application for replacement of permanent resident card.