It is well known that one of the most important and greatest benefits granted to lawful permanent residents, is the ability to travel freely outside the country. But you will have to remember that this freedom has got some limitations as you may not be able to travel abroad for more than 365 days with your Green Card. Hence, it is mandatory to keep in mind the restrictions on travel.
If you seek to travel abroad for more than a year, you may obtain a re-entry permit to re-enter the United States, after traveling abroad for less than two years. If you choose to remain outside the country for more than a year, you may file an application with the USCIS for a re-entry permit, ahead of your planned date of departure. You will have to apply for a permit before leaving the country as it is not possible to apply for and get a permit while abroad. If you get a re-entry permit, you may not be required to obtain a returning resident visa from a US consulate abroad, while you return to the United States. Moreover, you may reside in a foreign country for the validity of the re-entry permit granted to you.
You need to obtain a re-entry permit
- if you are a Green Card holder and if you wish to travel abroad for more than 365 days. or
- if you are a lawful permanent resident who is unable to get a passport from the country of your nationality.
Remember that you may not require this permit, if you intend to travel outside the country for less than a year.
USCIS Form I-131
You may get a re-entry permit, by filing the USCIS Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. While applying for a re-entry permit, you must submit a copy of your Green Card and copies of your passport. You may be required to appear for biometrics collection and after that you may be issued a re-entry permit, valid for two years. If you fail to attend the biometrics appointment before leaving the country, your application for a re-entry permit will be denied. Remember that you will not be able to apply for or get another re-entry permit, until the current permit is valid.
Advantages of Getting a Re-entry Permit
Being a lawful permanent resident of the United States, if you stay outside the country for more than a year, you may not be able to return to the United States, with your Green Card. That is because, the US immigration officers may consider that you had resided outside the country with an intention of abandoning your lawful status in the United States, as the USCIS grants a permanent resident card to an individual who seeks to make the United States, his permanent home. But you may return to the country hassle free, if you hold a re-entry permit. This permit proves that you have not abandoned your immigration status in the United States. With this permit you may travel freely, for two years and you also need not obtain a returning resident visa, if you hold a re-entry permit.