For lawful permanent residents who have been outside the U.S. for an extended period of time, returning to the U.S. by simply flashing your green card at the port-of-entry may not be so easy. In fact, is entirely possible that the Department of Homeland Security may attempt to take your green card away from you under the belief that you have abandoned your permanent resident status. However, the solution to this problem might be a returning resident visa, or an SB-1 visa.
As the name suggests, these are not ordinary visas. They’re for returning residents, which means that you have to be established as a lawful permanent resident of the United States to qualify.
In most cases, these visas are granted to those who have achieved permanent resident status and travelled outside the United States for a period greater than one year. If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than one year, or if your reentry permit has already expired, a special visa has to be granted to the resident in order for them to lawfully return to the United States—the returning resident visa.
It’s essentially a traveling conundrum: you have obtained permanent resident status in the United States, but are concerned you will not be permitted to return to the U.S. because you have been outside of the country for so long. A returning resident visa is applicable in this instance, as it is designed for a person to return to the United States and resume their permanent residence. Without obtaining this visa from a U.S. Embassy, you may be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status upon your attempted return to the U.S.
The application for a returning resident visa will be submitted to the U.S. Embassy with jurisdiction over your case. You will have to present your green card and/or your reentry permit, if applicable, as well as documents proving your ties to the U.S. and that show your continuous intent to reside in the U.S. You will also have to provide proof that your stay outside the U.S. was extended beyond your control—a common example is medical bills due to incapacitation while abroad.
The application process will also include fees, a personal interview, etc. The process may take some time, so it is important to start preparing well in advance of your desired return to the U.S.
Technically speaking, you’ll have to be more than just a “returning resident.” To qualify for this status, you’ll need to demonstrate the following:
You had lawful permanent resident status when you left the United States.
When you left the United States, you did so with the intention to return—and subsequently have not “abandoned” this intention.
You’re returning from a temporary trip, and if the stay was extended, it was not due to your own responsibility, but for reasons out of your control.
Though it can be easy to demonstrate the first two, keep in mind that the third reason can be tricky. If at any time it’s demonstrated that you wanted to abandon your lawful permanent resident status and that your extended stay abroad was a result of your choices, it’s possible you will not receive the visa.
Being outside the United States can make life more difficult in immigration, even when you’re a lawful permanent resident. While a green card typically allows a person to return to the U.S. without any problems, that is not always the case. You may encounter issues if your trip outside the U.S. has been for an extended period of time. If you are concerned that you have stayed outside of the U.S. for too long, contact Reeves Immigration Law Group for a confidential consultation about your case.