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Re-entry permit for Green card holders

What is the Re-entry Permit for Green Card Holders?

A re-entry permit is available for lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) who leave the United States for certain periods of time while under Green Card status and who wish to maintain their Green Card status. Thus, the re-entry permits shows that the Green Card holder did not intend to abandon his or her lawful permanent resident status when he or she left the United States.

Why is a Re-entry Permit Needed?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may invalidate a Green Card holder’s lawful permanent resident status if the Green Card holder’s absence from the country, or residency somewhere else, suggests that the Green Card holder intended to abandon his or her lawful permanent resident status. The re-entry permit informs the USCIS that the Green Card holder did not intend to abandon his or her status when travelling outside of the U.S.

Other evidence, such as maintaining clear connections to the United States through tax filings, a U.S. mailing address, family ties, or a U.S. employer may show the Green Card holder did not intend to abandon his or her lawful permanent resident status. Thus, continuing one or all of these practices while travelling abroad can be useful evidence that the Green Card holder wishes to maintain lawful permanent resident status. Moreover, the re-entry permit allows the Green Card holder to forgo obtaining a returning resident visa when he or she ultimately comes back to the United States.

When is a Re-entry Permit Needed?

There are a few circumstances where a Green Card holder should apply for a re-entry permit. Generally, a re-entry permit should be obtained when:

  • a Green Card holder is absent from the United States for one year or more;
  • a Green Card holder takes up residency in another country, even if his or her absence from the U.S. is less than one year;
  • a Green Card holder plans to travel outside the U.S. and cannot or does not want to get a passport from the Green Card holder’s home country.

Is a Re-entry Permit a Passport?

A re-entry permit is not the same as a passport. However, many countries may allow a re-entry permit to be used like a passport as a main travel document for collecting stamps and visas. A travelling Green Card holder should understand the travel document requirements of the countries he or she intends to visit.

What is the Process to Obtain a Re-entry Permit?

In order to receive a re-entry permit, a Green Card holder must apply for one prior to his or her anticipated travel outside of the United States.

Step One: File Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and Supporting Evidence

The travelling Green Card holder must submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document to the USCIS at least 60 days before the international travel. The Green Card holder will share information about his or her planned travel, any past travel, and U.S. tax returns.

When submitting Form I-131, the Green Card holder must submit supporting evidence for the re-entry permit, including:

  • Evidence of lawful permanent resident status:
    • Front and back copy of Green Card;
    • Copy of biographic pages of passport;
    • Copy of visa page showing initial admission as lawful permanent resident;
    • Copy of approved Form I-797, Notice of Action for replacement of Green Card;
    • Temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status;
    • Certified English translations of non-English documents.
  • A copy of an official photo identity document.


Step Two: Attend Biometrics Services Appointment

After filing Form I-131, the Green Card holder may also be required to attend a Biometrics Services Appointment with the USCIS. At the Biometrics Services Appointment, the Green Card holder may be required to provide his or her fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature in order to verify the Green Card holder’s identity, obtain additional information, and conduct a background and security check.

Can the Application be Filed From Outside the United States?

The Form I-131 must be filed when the Green Card holder is still physically present in the United States prior to the planned travel. A Green Card holder may leave the United States after filing Form I-131 but before it is approved; however, this is not recommended as many Green Card holders must attend a biometrics services appointment after filing Form I-131.

How Long is the Re-entry Permit Valid?

Lawful Permanent Residents

A re-entry permit is valid for two years from the date it is issued. The permit shows its specific expiration date. Re-entry permits may not be extended or renewed; however, a Green Card holder may apply for a new one after the current one expires. The Green Card holder must return to the United States and be physically present in the United States when applying for the new re-entry permit.

When the Green Card holder applies for a new re-entry permit, he or she must submit any currently valid re-entry permit along with the application. Expired re-entry permits do not need to be included with an application for a new one. There is no limit on the amount of times the Green Card holder can apply for a re-entry permit; however the Green Card holder will only be issued a re-entry permit valid for one year if he or she has been outside the United States for more than four of the previous five years since obtaining a Green Card.

Conditional Residents

Re-entry permits issued to a conditional permanent resident will only be valid for as long as the conditional green card is valid.

What is the Returning Resident Visa?

Returning resident visas, also known as SB-1 visas, are available for eligible Green Card holders who travel outside of the United States beyond the amount of time granted by their Green Card or re-entry permit.

A Green Card holder without a re-entry permit can travel abroad for a maximum of one year, while those with a re-entry permit can travel abroad for a maximum of two years. Green Card holders who stay beyond the maximum amount of time abroad qualify to return to the United States under a returning resident visa if they:

  • Had lawful permanent resident status when they left the United States;
  • Left the United States with the intention to return and still have this intention;
  • Overstayed their trip abroad for reasons beyond their control and responsibility.

What is the Advance Parole?

The Advance Parole is a separate travel document that allows individuals who are waiting to be issued their Green Card to travel internationally. Advance parole can be issued to individuals inside or outside the United States. However, an advance parole is issued for more limited reasons. Thus, individuals inside the United States will receive an advance parole only if the trip is for educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes. Individuals outside the United States will receive an advance parole only if the trip is for an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit reason.

To receive an advance parole, an individual must submit the same Form I-131, Application for Travel Document submitted for a re-entry permit. However, the advance parole requires some different documentation evidence from the re-entry permit.

How Much Do Re-Entry Permits Cost?

The cost of Form I-131 is $575.

The cost of the biometric services fee is $85.

The cost of a returning resident visa is ~$650, including fees for the application, other forms, medical examination, and vaccinations.

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

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