August 10, 2022

Re-Entry Permits: What You Need to Know

Before leaving the United States, all green card holders must ensure they maintain their immigration status. With that, the legal permanent resident must prove they are not abandoning their current status. You can protect that status by applying for a re-entry permit before a long trip abroad. With this article, you can find out everything you need to know about re-entry permits for green card holders. 

What Is a Green Card Reentry Permit?

A re-entry permit is an official United States document that allows lawful permanent residents to take a long trip abroad while maintaining their U.S. resident status.

Anyone with a permanent resident card, known as a green card, must maintain a continuous residence in the United States. When an individual green card holder travels abroad for a period longer than a year, there is a chance that the USCIS could revoke the permanent residence status.

With a re-entry permit, this document indicates to the United States that the green card holder will eventually return to the country and continue to maintain residence there. A re-entry permit will ensure you are not abandoning your United States residence

Related: Can DACA Recipients Travel? What You Need to Know 

Who Needs a Re-Entry Permit?

When you obtain a re-entry permit, it will show that you intend to maintain your green card status when traveling abroad. If you have a current green card, you will want to apply for a re-entry permit if you have any plans to travel outside of the United States for more than a year.

For anyone who will be traveling for less than a year, the green card will continue to remain valid without the need for a re-entry permit. However, you still want to maintain ties to the United States through a home address, family connections, or work, especially when traveling abroad. Otherwise, you could be seen as abandoning your status even if you re-enter the U.S after travel that was less than 1-year. 

If you have been out of the U.S for more than one year, and you did not apply for a re-entry permit before leaving the country, you will have to apply for an SB-1 visa (returning resident visa) at your local U.S. embassy or consulate to return to the United States. 

In some situations, you can use a re-entry permit as a travel document, especially for those who cannot obtain a passport from their home countries. Many countries use the re-entry permit as a passport, and their officials will stamp the document with entry and exit stamps. Before leaving the country, make sure your destination accepts a U.S. re-entry permit as a valid travel document. 

How Do You Apply for a Re-entry Permit and What Documents are Required?

If you want to apply for a re-entry permit, you must file Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document). With this form, you will be asked about the upcoming trip and your history of foreign travel and filing taxes. This application needs to be filed while you are still in the United States, about 60 days before you travel abroad. However, if you have to travel before you receive a physical re-entry permit, you may be able to retrieve the document at the local U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination country. 

The form has a $575 filing fee, and the biometric fee is another $85. You can pay for the filing with a money order, cashier's check, or personal check. All credit card payments must be authorized by filing Form G-1450 (Authorization for Credit Card Transactions).

You will need to gather a few pieces of information and pertinent documents for the application, including:

  • Proof of residency status, such as a copy of your green card
  • Form G-1145 allows the USCIS to notify you when the application is received
  • USCIS application fee
  • Biometrics fee

You must send all documents to the mailing address on the USCIS website. 

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the Biometrics Appointment

How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Re-entry Permit?

Generally, you can expect anywhere from 90 days to seven months for the USCIS to determine whether you can receive a re-entry permit. For that reason, the USCIS recommends that you submit your Form I-131 at least 60 days before your departure date. After you have filed your form, you can check the processing status on the website. However, you will need a receipt number on the application to check any status. As previously mentioned, you can still travel after completing the biometrics appointment and filing Form I-131. You will need to indicate on your form that the USCIS should send your re-entry permit to the local U.S. consulate or embassy. 

How Long Is a Re-Entry Permit Valid?

woman in blue blazer reading immigration documents

A re-entry permit is usually valid for two years from its date of issue. There are some exceptions. For example, a U.S. conditional resident with a residency expiration date will be given a re-entry permit for the duration of the conditional residency. After that, they must obtain permanent United States residence before applying for another re-entry permit.

You cannot extend re-entry permits. If it expires, you must return to the United States and apply for a new permit. 

How Do You Use a Re-Entry Permit?

After you have been issued a re-entry permit, you will want to keep your passport and green card with you. The Customs and Border Protection agent will inspect your documents and ask questions about your journey. Before you can re-enter the United States, everything must be in order. 

When you have a re-entry permit, it tells the CBP official that you have not abandoned your U.S. residence. However, a re-entry permit does not guarantee the right to re-enter the United States. If the officer suspects you have abandoned your residence status, you could be faced with more questions. Many green card holders face scrutiny when they travel abroad, even with these re-entry permits. By applying for United States citizenship, you will have the freedom to travel worldwide without questions. 

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What Else Should You Know About Traveling With a Re-entry Permit?

If you have departed the United States and become inadmissible while away, you could be denied re-entry into the country. Some of these inadmissible acts include committing a serious crime, getting involved in terrorist activity, developing a medical problem, or posing a threat to the community

In some cases, a border officer can exclude you from re-entry based on abandoning your U.S. residence. While you may hold a re-entry permit, if you have a permanent job or home in another country, that could be a red flag to prevent you from returning to the United States. 

Additionally, you must keep filing your tax returns as a U.S. resident, even while traveling abroad. If you fail to do this step, it could be seen as abandoning your residency status, even while traveling with a re-entry permit. 

Keep in mind that spending more than a year outside of the United States will not be considered a continuous residence, which could hurt your chances of gaining United States citizenship. You may have to face a longer time to apply for naturalization. In some cases, you may be able to file Form N-470 (Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes) to avoid losing time for your citizenship.

Related: How to Write An Invitation Letter for a U.S. Visitor Visa 


The process of applying for a re-entry permit can be tricky. You want to make sure to follow all of the steps to avoid abandoning your residency status. Talking to immigration attorneys in Irvine and Orange County can help you with the application process and provide some guidance with these documents. It can take a long time to get a green card, and you don't want to lose it by not understanding the rules of a re-entry permit.

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