Re-Entry Permit

Even though you might be a permanent resident of the United States, that does not necessarily mean that you have completely given up your ties to your native country.  You may still have a desire to travel back home to visit family, friends, and loved ones.  However, any time a green card holder travels outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time, there is always the potential issue of whether they have abandoned their permanent resident status.


Lawful permanent residents must still obey the law if they are going to travel and still retain their permanent resident status in the U.S.  Fortunately, one way to help avoid the Department of Homeland Security making an abandonment finding is by obtaining a reentry permit before you depart the U.S.  Here are 5 things everyone needs to know about reentry permits:

1. Reentry Permits are for Lawful Permanent Residents

Reentry permits are designed specifically for green card holders who will be traveling outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time.  Obviously it is preferable to become a naturalized U.S. citizen to avoid the need for a reentry permit, but a reentry permit is still a good option if you are not eligible for U.S. citizenship.


The reentry permit itself is visually distinguishable from a U.S. passport and a green card. It is similar to a passport in that it is a booklet of the same size, but it features a blue-green hue that says “TRAVEL DOCUMENT” on the front.  It is certainly not a U.S. passport, and this permit does a good job of reminding you of that fact, but it will allow you to travel and be outside of the U.S. for up to two years without automatically abandoning your permanent resident status.

2. Reentry Permits Help Prevent Abandonment

Permanent resident status may be deemed abandoned if the green card holder is spending too much time outside of the U.S.  While this is often a judgment decision on the part of the inspecting Department of Homeland Security officer upon the foreign national’s attempted return to the U.S., a green card holder will typically be considered to have abandoned their permanent resident status if they have been outside of the U.S. for more than one year.


However, this is where a reentry permit becomes helpful – a reentry permit is a document establishing that you do not want to abandon your status in the United States.  It is an acknowledgement on the part of the green card holder that they will be spending a considerable amount of time outside of the U.S., but that their overall intent it to remain a permanent resident of the U.S.  Simply leaving the United States without showing that your true intent is to timely return may increase the chances that you be charged with abandonment.  If so, you would have to start the immigration process all over again.

3. You Must Be Present in the United States to Apply for a Reentry Permit

One of the most frequently asked questions about reentry permits is whether it’s possible to apply after you have already left the U.S. and decided you will not returning anytime soon.  Simply, the answer is ‘no.’  You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for a reentry permit.

4. A Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) is Your Travel Document for Short-Term Travel

Reading all of the above information about reentry permits can be a bit intimidating.  What if you have had your green card for years and have never left the U.S., but now you want to travel to visit relatives for a couple of weeks?  If your vacation, business trip, etc. is not expected to last for a significant period of time, then a reentry permit may not be necessary.  These short trips are certainly possible, but just make sure that you have your permanent resident card handy to securely return to the United States.

5. Reentry Permits Cannot Be Extended—File For a New One

Some of the biggest mistakes that permanent residents make is believing that they will either be able to return to the U.S. with an expired reentry permit, or that they can simply renew it without leaving their foreign location.  The reality is that green card holders are taking a huge risk if they fail to return to the U.S. during the validity of their reentry permit.


Also, even though a person may be seeking a second reentry permit, they are still required to be physically present in the U.S. on the day they apply.  The second application should not be thought of as simply a renewal formality.  And in fact, obtaining a second reentry permit is often more challenging than having the first application approved.

Reeves Immigration Law Group – Full-Service Immigration Law Firm

The rules about abandonment might sound strict, but be sure to follow them.  If you are going to potentially be outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, the skilled legal team at Reeves Immigration Law Group can help.  We will discuss whether there truly is a need, and if so, be able to obtain a reentry permit for you so that you can travel without worrying about the process of returning to the U.S.  Contact Reeves Immigration Law Group today for a confidential consultation about your case.

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