Information for Former or Returning U.S. Residents

A permanent resident alien returning to the United States from a visit abroad of less than a year may apply for readmission by presenting an Alien Registration Receipt Card (“green card”) to the immigration authorities at a port of entry. The one-year time limitation does not apply to the spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a civilian employee of the U.S. Government stationed abroad pursuant to official orders. In this case, the spouse or child must present the card mentioned above, not have relinquished residence, and be preceding or accompanying the member or employee, or be following to join the member or employee in the United States within four months of the return of the member or employee.

A permanent resident alien who intends to remain abroad for more than a year should, at least 30 days prior to the proposed date of departure, apply while in the United States to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security for Reentry Permit. The permit is valid for two years and may not be extended. If such a permit is obtained the alien may use this card to reenter the United States within the period of validity. Every alien applying for readmission must satisfy the immigration authorities that he or she is eligible in all respects for admission.

A Reentry Permit does not preserve residence for naturalization purposes. An application for preservation of residence must be filed with USCIS prior to departure from the United States. Further information may be obtained from the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the alien’s place of residence in the United States.

Travel documents required for entry into foreign countries come within the jurisdiction of the government concerned; information on such matters should be requested from the representatives of those countries in the United States. A Reentry Permit contains space for visas issued by consular representatives of other countries.

Permanent resident aliens who are unable to return to the United States within the travel validity period of the Alien Registration Receipt Card, or the Reentry Permit, may apply to the nearest U.S. consular office for a special immigrant Returning Resident (SB-1) visa. To qualify for such status aliens must show:

  • That they were lawful permanent residents when they departed the United States;
  • That when they departed they intended to return to the United States and have maintained this intent;
  • That they are returning from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay was protracted, that it was caused by reasons beyond their control and for which they were not responsible; and
  • That they are eligible for the immigrant visa in all other respects.

Applicants who wish to apply for Returning Resident (SB-1) visas should contact the nearest consular office well in advance of their intended travel (at least three months in advance, if possible) to permit sufficient time for visa processing.

If the Returning Resident (SB-1) visa is refused on the grounds that the alien has given up his residence in the United States, it may or may not be possible to obtain a non immigrant visa, depending on whether the applicant has established a residence abroad to which he will return. If the applicant wishing to return to the United States cannot submit convincing evidence of compelling ties abroad he may have to apply for an immigrant visa on the same basis by which he immigrated originally, if that is possible.