What is a Reentry Permit (or Travel Document)?
A reentry permit is a permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR) or a conditional permanent resident to reenter the U.S. after an extended period of stay abroad. Normally, LPRs are expected to reside in the U.S. on a permanent basis. However, in many circumstances, an LPR needs to travel frequently or to reside abroad for an extended period of time ranging from a few months to a few years and the reentry permit is the document which would allow its LPR holder to maintain their LPR status while spending time abroad. The actual reentry permit looks a bit like a U.S. passport – a booklet with a tamper-proof photo page with biographic information and a number of stamp pages. Generally, a reentry permit can help prevent two types of problems: (a) your Permanent Resident Card becoming technically invalid for reentry into the U.S., if you are absent from the U.S. for one (1) year or more or (b) your U.S. permanent residence being considered as abandoned for absences shorter than one (1) year if you take up residence in another country. In certain cases, LPRs who do not have a valid passport can obtain a reentry permit for international travel in lieu of a passport. A reentry permit establishes a presumption that its holder did not abandon their U.S. permanent residency, and it allows its holder to apply for admission to the U.S. after traveling abroad for a period of up to two years, without having to obtain a returning resident visa. Reentry permits are normally valid for 2 years from the date of issuance. Extensions are possible in almost all cases.
I am a Green Card Holder – Do I Need a Reentry Permit?
There a number of situations in which we recommend LPRs to obtain a reentry permit before travel abroad. Generally, if you will (or potentially could) remain outside of the U.S. for a period of more than one (1) but less than two (2) years then you should definitely consider obtaining a reentry permit in order to maintain your permanent residency (green card). Alternatively, if you are traveling frequently in and out of the U.S., especially if you spend considerable periods of time abroad, even though each of your individual stays outside of the U.S. is less than one year, a reentry permit would help you demonstrate your continued intent to maintain U.S. permanent residency, but also help you avoid questioning at the U.S. border.
How long are you going to be outside of the U.S.?
You may also want to get a reentry permit if you plan on traveling outside the U.S. and cannot, or do not wish to get a passport from your home country. Some LPRs based on asylum do not actually have foreign passports and for them the only travel document permitting them to leave the U.S. is the reentry permit. As a result, many countries throughout the world allow you to use a reentry permit much like you would use a passport – placing necessary visas, and entry and exit stamps in the permit – so you may use it as your main travel document. Please see below for a more detailed description and specific examples of situations requiring reentry permit.
Frequent Reentry Permit Situations
Below are some of the most common situations where we have recommended and have been able to secure a reentry permit for our clients. We are happy to review your personal situation and recommend the best approach – please submit a free and no-obligation case review request.
Overview of Our Reentry Permit Application Process
- You complete the intake form.
- We respond within one business day with free case recommendation and a fee proposal.
- You send us electronically a number of requested documents.
- We prepare and send you electronically a package of documents and instructions for review and signature.
- You sign and FedEx (or similar) the signed documents back to us.
- We file the application for you.
- You attend the required biometrics appointment.
- The reentry permit is produced and we send to you (abroad, if necessary).
Reentry Permit Process Timeline
The reentry permit application (Form I-131) is filed with USCIS along with supporting documentation and the correct filing fee. Effective April 2008, all reentry permit applications include a required biometrics processing component. Each applicant must submit to biometrics processing at a local USCIS service center before his or her reentry permit can be issued. While biometrics can be rescheduled one or more times, failure to attend the biometrics appointment within 120 days of the application receipt date may cause the reentry permit to be denied.
A regular processing reentry permit application can take between 1-2 months from the time of applying to the biometrics appointment; with another 3-4 months for the actual reentry permit to be produced and mailed to the applicant. If you have a foreign passport and can travel internationally, then you can depart the U.S. after processing the biometrics. LPRs who need the reentry permit for international travel would need to wait until its production before they can make travel arrangements and depart the U.S.
Expedited Processing - Do I Qualify?
Because of these significant processing times under the regular processing, we recommend that reentry permit applications be initiated well in advance of any planned trip. Additionally, USCIS has established an “expedited processing” procedure which permits, under certain circumstances and emergencies, the biometrics to be scheduled on a first-available basis so that the applicant can travel abroad. In many cases, under the expedited processing procedure, we are able to schedule the biometrics appointment within 2-4 weeks of application filing.
The government has indicated that they would consider a request to expedite the the biometrics scheduling on a case-by-case basis. In our experience and in most cases, due to the significant processing time for a regular reentry permit, we can make the case in the reentry permit filing that the required biometrics should be expedited due to scheduled travel (plane ticket purchases), work schedule (must appear for a new assignment abroad), medical needs (urgent surgery abroad), or others. When we file a reentry permit and request expedited processing (majority of our cases), we include prepaid FedEx envelopes to that USCIS can promptly return the biometrics notice back to us.