Due to recent changes in U.S. law, it is no surprise to learn that immigrants can find it difficult to travel outside of the United States once they have legally been allowed inside. This, however, does not mean that immigrants can never leave the country; rather, they simply need to have the proper documentation. For permanent and conditional residents, the USCIS allows for them to travel abroad and then re-enter the U.S. by completing the Application for Travel Document (Form I-131).
By obtaining this, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) can easily return to the U.S. after being absent for a year – even if their green card has become invalid during this time. If you have a re-entry permit, you are essentially claiming that you will return and you are not abandoning your status as a LPR. According to the conditions of the permit, you will be able to leave for up to two years. In many situations, re-entry permits can also be used as another form of a passport, thus allowing you to travel throughout foreign countries without going through the additional struggle of getting a passport from your home country.
Lawful permanent residents are permitted to travel outside the United States and then return, but they will be subjected to some limitations when doing so. For this reason, it is essential that LPRs who wish to travel outside of the country do so only after obtaining a re-entry permit. With this type of permit in their possession, LPRs can avoid the two most common problems experienced by permanent residents who travel outside of the U.S.
1. Absence from the United States for one year or more will invalidate a Permanent Resident Card unless a re-entry permit has been obtained.
2. Taking up residence in another country, even for less than a year, can be considered as abandonment of an LPR’s permanent residence status unless a re-entry permit was obtained.
What happens if I travel without a re-entry permit?
If you leave the United States for more than a year and did not obtain your re-entry permit before leaving, you will be officially considered to have “abandoned” your status as a LPR. To re-enter, you will need to appear before an Immigration Judge and may need a returning resident visa.
Am I able to file for a re-entry permit from another country?
No, you need to file the Form I-131 before you leave the United States, typically more than 60 days from the estimated date of departure. While it is pending, however, you can leave and just indicate during the filing process that you will pick it up from a U.S. Embassy, consulate or DHS office overseas.
Can I extend my re-entry permit?
Legally, there is no way in which you can extend the timeline of your re-entry permit. If you currently have a permit, but need more time, you will need to send in your valid permit and re-apply for another one. If the one you have is expired, however, you do not need to turn it in to receive a new one.
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