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13 Questions and Answers About Absences from the U.S. for Persons with Green Cards

1. Question: What if I am not ready to leave my home country when the green card is ready for final interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy?

Answer:

The final green card interview can usually be delayed if there is good cause. Also, after arrival in the U.S. with a green card, it is possible to obtain permission to be absent from the U.S.


2. Question: I am applying for a U.S. green card based on investment and have been told it takes about two years to process. What can I do if I am not ready to leave in two years because I have financial commitments or an elderly relative to look after?

Answer: If you know you will not be ready to move, you can still file now and generally one can delay the final interview for months or even a few years if you have a good reason.


3. Question: Is it better to come over within 6 months of the final green card interview and then file for a reentry permit?

Answer: Yes, it’s better to immigrate and obtain the green card or conditional green card and then file for a reentry permit.


4. Question: What is a reentry permit?

Answer: A reentry permit can help prevent two types of problems:

  • Your Permanent Resident Card becomes technically invalid for reentry into the United States if you are absent from the United States for 1 year or more.

  • Your U.S. permanent residence may be considered as abandoned for absences shorter than 1 year if you take up residence in another country.


5. Question: What does a reentry permit do?

Answer: A reentry permit establishes that you did not intend to abandon status, and it allows you to apply for admission to the United States after traveling abroad for up to 2 years without having to obtain a returning resident visa. Reentry permits are normally valid for 2 years from the date of issuance.


6. Question: Does a reentry permit have other uses?

Answer: You may also want to get a reentry permit if you plan on traveling outside the United States and cannot or do not wish to get a passport from your home country. Many countries throughout the world may allow you to use a reentry permit much like you would use a passport—placing necessary visas and entry and exit stamps in the permit—so you may use it as your main travel document.


7. Question: What will happen if I do not apply for a reentry permit before I travel outside of the United States?

Answer: If you are a green card holder planning to travel outside of the United States for 1 year or more, it is important that you apply for a reentry permit before you depart the United States. If you stay outside of the United States for 1 year or more and did not apply for a reentry permit before you left, you may be considered to have abandoned your permanent resident status. If this happens, you may be referred to appear before an immigration judge to decide whether or not you have abandoned your status.


8. Question: I am a permanent resident and need to travel abroad. Can I file to get a reentry permit while I am outside the United States?

Answer: No. You cannot file to obtain a reentry permit unless you are physically present in the United States when you file. You should file no fewer than 90 days before you intend to travel abroad.


9. Question: If I file to get a reentry permit while I am in the United States, will USCIS deny the application if I leave the United States while the application is still pending?

Answer: We recommend that you file while you are in the United States. However, you do not have to be in the United States for USCIS to approve your Form I-131 and issue a reentry permit to you if your biometrics (photo, fingerprints) have been obtained.


10. Question: If I file for a reentry permit while I am in the United States, can I submit my biometrics while I am outside the United States?

Answer: No. When you file your Form I-131 to obtain a reentry permit, USCIS will notify you when to appear at a designated Application Support Center (ASC) to obtain your biometrics. You must provide your biometrics at the ASC while you are in the United States. If you leave the United States before you provide your biometrics, USCIS may deny your application.


11. Question: What if I must leave the United States before I can file for a reentry permit?

Answer: You do not need a reentry permit if you will be outside the United States for less than 1 year if the U.S. is still your home. If you have been outside the United States for less than 1 year, you may use your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) as your travel document to seek entry. However, any absence of 6 months or more breaks the “continuity” of your permanent residence and can impact your eligibility to apply for U.S., naturalization.


12. Question: Can I extend the reentry permit?

Answer: Reentry permits cannot be extended. If your permit expires, you’ll need to apply for a new one.


13. Question: How long will the new reentry permit be valid for?

Answer: The second reentry permit may be approved for up to two years, and thereafter reentry permits are valid for only 12 months at a time if there are valid reasons to be absent

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