Re-entry permits are issued to lawful permanent residents and conditional permanent residents who plan to travel outside the country for more than a year. You can re-enter the United States, with your Green Card, if you remain outside the United States for less than 365 days, but you may not be able to get into the United States with your permanent resident card, if you remain abroad for more than a year. In such cases you will have to obtain a re-entry permit before leaving the United States.
You need to file the USCIS Form I-131, to get a re-entry permit. You need to file this form 90 days ahead of your planned date of travel. You may not be able to file this form while outside the country and you need to file this form while in America. You will be required to appear for biometrics collection after your form is approved and you may leave the country after appearing for the biometrics appointment and the USCIS will mail your re-entry permit to the overseas US Embassy or Consulate, if you request the USCIS to do so. Nevertheless, you may not be issued a re-entry permit if you leave the country, before the biometrics appointment.
Who is eligible to file Form I-131?
People who hold ten year Green Cards and conditional Green Card holders may file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to obtain re-entry permits. You need to apply for a new permit only if the permit that you already hold is invalid or lost. USCIS will not issue a new re-entry permit if you already hold one. If you leave the United States without obtaining a re-entry permit and if you fail to get back to the country within a year, you will not be granted entry into the United States and the US immigration officers will consider that you have relinquished your lawful status in America.
Period of Validity of a Reentry Permit
Re-entry permits issued by the USCIS are generally valid for a period of two years. But you will be granted a re-entry permit valid for one year, if you had remained outside the United States for 4 years during the past 5 years, after being granted lawful permanent resident status. You will be issued a re-entry permit valid for two years, if you work for a public international organization or if you are a professional athlete. Re-entry permits issued to conditional permanent residents will be valid for two years or up to the date of expiration of their conditional status in America.
Supporting Documents that must Accompany Form I-131
If you send your application for a re-entry permit without the required supporting documents, your application will not be accepted. You must mail your form along with the required filing fees and a copy of your Green Card or conditional Green Card. If not, you must send a copy of your passport’s biographic page, in order to demonstrate that you are a lawful permanent resident.