Reentry Permit: Everything You Need to Know
A reentry permit gives permission for a U.S. lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident to reenter the U.S. after an extended period of time.11 min read
What Is a Reentry Permit?
A reentry permit gives permission for a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR) — also known as a green card holder — or conditional permanent resident to reenter the U.S. after an extended period of time abroad. Permission is granted by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). LPRs are expected to permanently and primarily live in the United States. It can be a problem if a lawful permanent resident must travel abroad for extended periods of time.
A reentry permit must be granted prior to the lawful permanent resident's departure from the United States. Without a reentry permit, an LPR who resides out of the U.S. for an extended period of time may lose their status as a lawful permanent resident. For short-term international travel, a reentry permit is not needed. Only a green card and passport would be necessary to return to the United States.
Why a Reentry Permit is Necessary
After one year, an LPR's green card becomes invalid for entry into the U.S. A reentry permit proves that the lawful permanent resident did not intend to give up U.S. residence or their green card.
A reentry permit can also be used if a lawful permanent resident cannot or does not wish to get a passport from their home country. The reentry permit replaces the passport from the lawful permanent resident's home country.
When received for this purpose, a U.S. reentry permit may be used for entry and exit of other foreign countries, just like a passport. The necessary visa and stamps to enter a foreign country will be placed directly into the reentry permit booklet. The reentry permit closely resembles a U.S. passport and may be used as the main travel document of a U.S. permanent resident.
Who Needs a Reentry Permit?
A lawful permanent resident who intends to travel outside of the United States for an extended period of time needs a reentry permit. The reentry permit needs to be received before a lawful permanent resident begins their travel abroad.
A lawful permanent resident should obtain a reentry permit if:
They will spend more than one year, but less than two years, outside the U.S.
They will spend more than six months outside the U.S. for two consecutive years.
They will be frequently traveling in and out of the U.S. for considerable amounts of time.
They cannot or do not want to get a passport from their home country. This would be the case for someone in the U.S. for asylum.
A reentry permit for the U.S. signifies to border security that the lawful permanent resident intends to maintain their residency. A reentry permit can also speed up the entry process and reduce questions asked at the border.
When a Reentry Permit Isn't Necessary
Some U.S. permanent residents can reenter the United States after an absence of longer than one year with only a permanent resident or green card. This includes:
Civilian employees of the U.S. Government who are returning from an official assignment abroad.
The spouse or child of a civilian employee of the U.S. Government who is returning from an official assignment abroad.
The spouse or child of a military member.
Green Card vs. Reentry Permit
A green card and a reentry permit aren't the same. For a short-term trip abroad, a green card and passport are enough to reenter the U.S. For extended trips, a reentry permit is necessary.
Even if a lawful permanent resident has a valid, unexpired green card, they may not be able to reenter the U.S. after an extended (more than one year) trip abroad. On the other hand, a lawful permanent resident may have an expired green card and still have a valid status as a legal resident of the U.S.
Without a reentry permit, a lawful permanent resident may lose their status when reentering the U.S. after an extended trip abroad. This loss of status means that the person must reapply for the status of lawful permanent resident in the U.S.
Once a person has lost their status as a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., they can only enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visitor visa. This can complicate the entry process into the U.S. Reapplication for a green card is not guaranteed approval.
Upon Reentry Into the United States
Upon reentry into the United States, it's up to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry to decide if the lawful permanent resident's travel was "temporary" in nature or not.
Temporary is understood that the lawful permanent resident has the intention to return to the U.S. Ties to the community and intention to return may include:
The Customs and Border Protection officer may ask the lawful permanent resident questions such as these to determine intention:
What was your purpose of departing?
What is the termination date of your travel abroad?
What is your place of employment?
Where is your actual home?
What ties do you have to any U.S. property?
Do you have any family in the U.S.?
Have you filed taxes in the U.S. as a resident?
How long have you lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident versus your travel abroad?
When to Apply For a Reentry Permit
A lawful permanent resident of the United States MUST apply for a reentry permit PRIOR to leaving the country.
How to Apply For a Reentry Permit
The first step in applying for a reentry permit is to file a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The I-131 document is used for multiple types of applications, such as Refugee Travel Documents, so only fill out the portions that are applicable to the reentry permit. The applicant must be physically present in the United States when applying. As of 2008, biometric information is also collected to complete the application process.
The following documents are required when filling out Form I-131
Proof of permanent resident status
Copy of green card
Copy of passport page showing admission as a permanent resident
Two passport-style color photos
Payment for application fee
Payment for biometrics fee
The application should also contain information as to why the lawful permanent resident is requesting a reentry permit, why they're leaving the country for an extended period of time, and their intent to return to the U.S. Failure to provide the required information may force a Request for Evidence or a denial of the application.
Documents that are required to be in the reentry permit application packet include:
Front and back copy of lawful permanent resident's green card or permanent resident card
Evidence to prove the lawful permanent resident was in the U.S. at the time of submission of the reentry permit application. This might include:
Store or restaurant receipts
Statement explaining the reason why an extended trip abroad is necessary.
Statement explaining their intent to return to the U.S. at the end of the travel abroad.
Proof of ties to the U.S.
Current home or auto insurance
Proof of home ownership
Non-expired driver's license
For a renewal of a reentry permit, the application should also include a copy of the biometric information page from the previous reentry permit.
Biometric Services Requirement
After the application is submitted, an appointment for biometric services will be scheduled by the USCIS — typically five to eight weeks after submission. The lawful permanent resident must also be present in the U.S. for the biometrics appointment. The biometrics processing must take place at a USCIS service center.
It is possible for the lawful permanent resident to stay in the U.S. until the biometrics appointment or leave the U.S. and return for the biometrics appointment. The biometrics appointment can be rescheduled more than once, as long as it is completed within 120 days of the receipt of the reentry permit application.
If the biometric appointment is not scheduled within the 120 days, the reentry permit application is considered abandoned. Abandonment will require the lawful permanent resident to restart the application process for a reentry permit.
After the biometrics appointment has been completed, the lawful permanent resident may leave the U.S. using a foreign passport. For those seeking a reentry permit because they cannot get a passport from their country of origin, this may not be possible.
Processing of Reentry Permit
The time from the submission of a reentry permit application to the biometrics appointment can be one to two months. From the biometrics appointment to the issuance of a reentry permit is typically three to four months. The reentry permit is mailed to the applicant upon approval.
Notice of Receipt
After filing the reentry permit, the lawful permanent resident will receive a notice of receipt from the USCIS within two to three weeks of submission. The notice of receipt is proof of a pending application for a reentry permit.
The notice of receipt can be useful for a lawful permanent resident who is traveling abroad while waiting for the issuance of a reentry permit. The notice of receipt can be provided as proof to U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon reentry into the U.S. from abroad to show that the application process has begun.
The notice of receipt can also be useful when checking on the status of the reentry permit application.
Notice of Biometrics Appointment
After the receipt of notice, a lawful permanent resident will receive a notice of a biometrics appointment within two to three weeks after the notice of receipt. The appointment will take place at the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the address provided on the reentry application.
At the biometrics appointment, the lawful permanent resident will have their photograph and fingerprints recorded. This allows for the necessary security and background checks that must be performed before approval for a reentry permit.
Request for Evidence
If the submitted reentry permit application has insufficient information, the USCIS will send a request for evidence. This request will clearly state which documents are needed and what information is required. The USCIS will also provide a timeline in which the evidence must be submitted. Be sure to submit all of the information at the same time.
Failure to provide the information requested in the request for evidence may result in denial of the application for the reentry permit. The request for evidence will also extend the time required to process the reentry permit application.
If needed, there is the opportunity to apply for a reentry permit with expedited processing.
Expedited processing is only available for some situations. Those situations might include:
Work schedule abroad
Severe financial loss
Nonprofit status while furthering the interests of the U.S.
Error by USCIS
With expedited processing, the biometrics appointment can be scheduled within seven to 14 days of filing the reentry permit application. The application for expedited processing is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
If it's not possible to expedite the biometrics appointment, it may be possible to walk into the local office and be seen.
It's also rare, but possible, in some circumstances to have the biometrics appointment abroad at a U.S. consulate. This is only available under specific circumstances.
When submitting a request for expedited processing, the lawful permanent resident can also submit a prepaid FedEx envelope so that the biometrics appointment notice can be mailed back as quickly as possible.
For applicants between 14-79 years of age: $660 filing fee
For applicants younger than 14: $575 filing fee
For applicants older than 79: $575 filing fee
Refugee/asylum applicants: $220 filing fee
There are many potential problems that lawful permanent residents might face when using (or not using) a reentry permit.
Problems With Not Using a Reentry Permit
If a lawful permanent resident doesn't have a reentry permit, they may face problems when trying to re-enter the U.S. This might include:
Intense questioning from Customs and Border Patrol officers
Cancellation of the lawful permanent resident's status as a permanent resident
Longer time spent crossing the border into the U.S.
Expense of attorney costs for legal issues
Advisement of Definition of "Temporary"
If a Customs and Border Protection officer is concerned about a lawful permanent resident's extended travel abroad, it's possible for them to make a notification in the person's passport. Once a lawful permanent resident has been advised of what temporary travel abroad is, the Customs and Border Protection Officer may be less understanding upon their next encounter.
If a lawful permanent resident has been advised by a Customs and Border Patrol officer of this temporary travel status or had their passport marked, it's very important to apply for a reentry permit. It might also be advisable to seek the help of an immigration attorney.
Reentry Permits Not Always Valid for Two Years
Most reentry permits are valid for two years from the date on which the permit is issued. However, some reentry permits are issued to be valid for only ONE year. The one-year validity is usually given to a lawful permanent resident who has lived outside the U.S. for more than four of the last five years.
If a lawful permanent resident travels abroad for a public international organization or is a professional athlete, they may be exempt from this rule.
If a person is a conditional resident and receives approval for a reentry permit, the reentry permit may not be valid after that person's conditional resident status has expired. A conditional resident is considered a lawful permanent citizen.
Reentry Permit Cannot Be Extended
A reentry permit CANNOT be extended. To receive a new reentry permit, a lawful permanent resident must reapply using Form I-131. The application for a new reentry permit should be submitted 90 days before the expiration of the current reentry permit.
Effect on Naturalization
Whether a lawful permanent resident has a reentry permit or not may affect that person's eligibility for naturalization.
If applying for naturalization, lawful permanent residents should try to avoid extensive international travel. Once a person becomes a naturalized citizen, they will no longer need a reentry permit to enter the U.S. after extensive travel abroad.
Naturalization requires a certain percentage of continuous residence which can be disrupted by international travel. It's important for those applying for naturalization to understand the requirements for physical presence and continuous residence before planning international travel. Trips abroad of six months or longer should be avoided if possible.
Why is a Reentry Permit Important?
A reentry permit is important because it prevents problems for lawful permanent residents who need to travel abroad for extended periods of time.
A reentry permit prevents three major types of problems:
Invalidation of permanent resident card
Consideration that lawful permanent resident status is abandoned
Expiration of green card while traveling abroad
Reentry Permit FAQs
- How long will the reentry permit be valid?
A reentry permit is typically valid for two years. There are some exceptions where a reentry permit is valid for only one year.
A reentry permit cannot be extended. A new reentry permit must be applied for.
- What is the application process for a reentry permit?
- Submit Form I-131
- Receive notice of receipt
- Receive notice of biometrics appointment
- Possibly receive request for evidence
- Receive notice of approval or denial
- How long does the reentry permit application process take?
From submission of the reentry permit application to receipt of the permit can take from three to five months.
- Is it possible to be denied a reentry permit?
Yes. There are many reasons for denial. These include:
- Not providing evidence when it is requested
- Having a current and valid reentry permit
- Other reasons deemed by USCIS
A lawful permanent resident can submit an appeal within 33 days of receiving the denial for a reentry permit.
- Does a reentry permit preserve your continuous residence for naturalization?
No. The reentry permit helps to retain the permanent resident status but doesn't work towards the requirements of naturalization.
- What happens to a lawful permanent resident who has resided outside the U.S. for longer than one year and doesn't have a reentry permit?
It's possible to be denied entry into the U.S. This person may also lose their status as a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.