What is a Re-Entry Permit?
As a permanent resident it is important to maintain permanent residency status to remain living in the United States. Travel, of course, is permitted for all permanent residents; however, green card holders should note long periods of stay in other countries could endanger your status in the United States as a permanent resident. Staying abroad for 6 months or more is generally considered a long period abroad.
Furthermore, a person’s green card is technically invalid for re-entry into the United States after absence from the United States for 1 year or more. Living abroad for a longer period of time might be possible if you are in possession of a re-entry permit.
A re-entry permit allows you to re-enter the United States after being abroad for up to two years, without needing to obtain a returning resident visa (another option to re-enter the United States after an absence of a year or more, however, it is more difficult to obtain).
How do I get a re-entry permit?
You must apply for a re-entry permit with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. This needs to be filed in the United States while you are physically present in the United States and cannot be done so from abroad. USCIS recommends filing at least 60 days before your intending travel. Shortly after filing the I-131, the USCIS is going to request that you have your biometrics taken in the US. Biometrics is the taking of an your fingerprints and photo and is a required part of the process. Biometrics cannot be taken from abroad for a re-entry permit.
Do re-entry permits expire?
Yes. Re-entry permits are usually granted on a 2 year basis, and once they expire they cannot be extended. You must apply for a new one if you plan to continue traveling abroad. If you have a valid re-entry permit at the time of applying for a new re-entry permit you must submit the valid re-entry permit with your application. Re-entry permits are not renewable indefinitely.
What is the cost of a re-entry permit?
There is a fee associated with a re-entry permit, which is $660 and covers the form fee and biometrics fee. Individuals over 80 and kids 13 or younger only need to pay the Form I-131 fee of $575.
In conclusion, it is important for all green card holders be mindful of their time abroad, plan ahead, and always remember to obtain a re-entry permit for instances when they will be out of the country for long periods of time.