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Traveling and Re-Entry Permits for Green Card Holders

As a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or green card holder in the United States, traveling outside the country can be a complex process. Understanding the nuances of re-entry permits and the implications of your travel on your permanent resident status is crucial. Let’s explore the essential aspects of traveling and re-entry to the U.S.

Understanding Your Travel Rights as a Green Card Holder

As an LPR, you have the right to travel abroad and return to the U.S. However, certain conditions apply:

  1. Duration of Travel: Short trips (generally less than six months) usually do not pose a problem. However, if you plan to be outside the U.S. for more than six months, your permanent resident status could be at risk.
  2. Continuous Residence: Prolonged absence can disrupt your continuous residence in the U.S., which is a requirement for naturalization.
  3. Abandonment of Residency: An extended absence might be interpreted as an abandonment of your residency. This determination depends on the duration and nature of your trip, as well as your ties to the United States.

Traveling as a LPR requires careful consideration of these rules. Maintaining your status involves not just adhering to legal requirements but also demonstrating your ongoing commitment to living in the U.S.

Re-entry Permits: What Are They and Who Needs Them?

If you anticipate being outside the United States for more than one year but less than two, a re-entry permit is essential. This document serves as proof of your intention to maintain permanent residence in the U.S. and facilitates re-entry after prolonged travel. 

Absences from the U.S. for more than one year without a re-entry permit or staying outside the U.S. for more than two years, even with a permit, can lead to the presumption that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. To mitigate this risk, maintain ties to the U.S., such as a home, job, or family connections.

Additionally, if you have been outside the U.S. for more than two years without a re-entry permit, you may need to apply for a Returning Resident Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

Applying for a Re-Entry Permit

Applying for a re-entry permit as a green card holder involves several steps, and failing to complete them can put your residency at risk. Here’s a general guide to the process:

  • Complete Form I-131, Application for Travel Document: Before starting the application, ensure you have all the necessary information and documents, including your green card, passport details, and information about your travel plans. Form I-131 is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. It requires detailed information about yourself, your travel plans, and your immigration history.
  • Pay the Filing Fee: USCIS periodically updates its fee schedule, so it’s important to check the current fee on the USCIS website. You can pay the fee online or by mail, depending on how you submit your application.
  • Submit the Application: If eligible, you can file Form I-131 online through the USCIS website. This method allows you to track the status of your application. Alternatively, you can mail your application to the appropriate USCIS address, which depends on your location and the specifics of your application.
  • Attend the Biometrics Appointment: After filing your application, USCIS will send you a notice for a biometrics appointment. This appointment is for fingerprinting and photographing, which are necessary for background checks. 
  • Wait for the Decision: The processing time for a permit can vary. Check the USCIS website for current processing times. If you filed online, you could check the status of your application through your USCIS online account.

A re-entry permit is typically valid for two years and cannot be extended. If you plan to stay outside the U.S. for more than two years, additional steps may be necessary. Furthermore, if you are employed by a U.S. company and are traveling for work, different rules might apply. If you have any specific concerns or complex situations, it’s always best to consult an immigration attorney.

Experienced Assistance for Green Card Travel Permit Applications

Traveling as a green card holder requires careful planning and understanding of immigration laws. If you plan to travel outside the U.S. for an extended period, consult with an experienced immigration attorney at Litwin & Smith to ensure that your rights and status as a permanent resident are protected. We encourage you to schedule your consultation today to learn more about how we can assist you with your re-entry permit application.

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