Complete Guide to Reentry Permits in the U.S.
Posted by Frank Gogol
If you travel in and out of the U.S. regularly, chances are you have heard about reentry permits from your attorney or in web forums. You also might have heard about their advantages and why you should apply for a reentry permit for yourself. In this article, we’ll guide you through the reentry permit application process and everything you should know as an applicant.
Table of Contents
What Is a Reentry Permit?
A reentry permit is a travel document that allows any lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident to travel outside of the U.S. for more than one year and reenter safely upon return.
While your green card and your passport, along with other travel documents, are normally all you’d need, things get a bit complicated if you spend a long time out of the U.S. Think of the reentry permit as protection against any such complications. Once issued, it is valid for two years. So, you can safely remain out of the U.S. for up to two years.
Who Needs a Reentry Permit?
Reentry permits are particularly useful for lawful permanent residents who travel in and out of the U.S. on a regular basis or stay out for a long period of time. While this is accepted by the United States government, there are limitations, including:
- Your permanent resident card, technically, becomes invalid if you remain absent from the United States for more than one year in a row. This could affect your reentry into the U.S.
- Your residence in the United States may be considered as abandoned if you take up residency in a foreign country, even if the duration of absence is less than one year.
In such cases, a reentry permit will help your cause as a lawful permanent resident. Since the permit establishes that you do not intend to abandon your U.S. residence, you remain protected against any absence-related scrutiny.
So, as a lawful permanent resident who stays away from the United States for more than one year but less than two years, you should get a reentry permit.
A reentry permit is also useful if you want to travel outside the United States but not on a passport of your home country. Many countries will recognize the reentry permit issued by the U.S. government as a valid travel document. This is particularly useful for permanent residents who, for some reason, cannot get a passport from their native country. But it is advised to check with the respective country’s passport and visa requirements before making travel arrangements since each country is different.
Documents Required for a Reentry Permit
When applying for a reentry permit, it’s important to submit the required forms and supplement them with relevant documents, including:
- Completed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
- Two recent, identical passport-sized photographs
- Photocopy of an official photo ID that clearly shows your name, photo, and DOB. This can be a permanent resident card, passport, state-issued driver’s license, etc.
- A photocopy of Form I-797 (if you cannot produce a permanent resident card for any reason)
You must have these documents before you apply for a reentry permit.
How to Apply for a Reentry Permit
In this section, we’ll guide you step-by-step on how to apply for a reentry permit.
File Form I-131 and Form G-1145
The first step in applying for your reentry permit is to fill out and submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. It is a five-page form with 16 pages of instructions. The form is available online, and you can download it here. It’s important that you answer all questions and put N/A where they do not apply to you. Fill out Form G-1145 to request the USCIS inform you of your application status along the way.
The documents you need to submit have already been mentioned above, except for the fee receipt. You will pay for it afterward. Submit all the documents after you are done filling out Form I-131.
Pay the Application Fee
In the third step, you will be asked to pay the required application fees and biometric verification fees. You can pay them either by credit card or money order.
You need to send all of these by mail to the USCIS office in your state. To get the address, please visit this link.
Biometric Verification Appointment
Finally, a biometric verification session will be arranged by the USCIS after you have submitted Form I-131 and paid the fees. Attend the interview without fail and answer all the questions that are asked.
How Much Does a Reentry Permit Cost?
The filing fee for a reentry permit is $575, along with biometric fees of $85. If you’re filing through an immigration lawyer, they will have their own charges.
Reentry Permit Processing Time
The processing time for reentry permits can range somewhere between three and seven months depending upon application volume, the correctness of your form, and working days, among other unavoidable circumstances. Therefore, the USCIS recommends that you apply at least 60 days before you depart for your trip.
But you do not have to wait to receive your permit physically. After you are done with your biometric appointment, you can travel abroad and collect your permit from the country’s U.S. Embassy once it is issued.
How Long Is a Reentry Permit Valid?
The permit is valid for two years. Once issued, the reentry permit lets you stay out of the U.S. for a maximum of two years, after which it expires. The expiration date is counted from the day it is issued, not from the day you leave the U.S.
For some permanent residents, two years might not be enough to finish their job, so you can renew your permit. Once expired, you have to return to the U.S. to renew it. You will receive an additional two years to remain out of the country. The regulation does not specify how many times you can renew the reentry permit. So you can always apply for a third, fourth, and fifth reentry permit once the previous one expires.
Please note that you cannot extend your existing permit. You have to apply for a new one or renew it.
Reentry Permit FAQ
Can a Reentry Permit Request Be Denied?
Yes, if your filings are not in order with the USCIS’s requirements. Another common reason is if you already have a valid reentry permit that’s not expired, the application will be rejected.
Can I Encounter Issues Even With a Reentry Permit?
In most cases, you’ll have no problem. But in high alert situations or an epidemic outbreak, you may face scrutiny. Also, if you haven’t been in touch with U.S. officials for years, problems may arise out of nowhere.