Everything You Need to Know about Form DS-117

Updated on April 10, 2024

The United States government allows resident aliens to stay outside of the country for a specific amount of time. Post this, they need to specify the reason for which they had the extended stay abroad. The resident alien will have to do some paperwork and DS-117 is a part of it. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about DS-117.

What is Form DS-117?

Form DS-117 is officially known as the Application to Determine Returning Resident Status. This is the form provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (or, USCIS) to initiate the determination process. This is part of the Returning Resident Visa or SB-1 visa program.

As per the rules, permanent residents and conditional residents are tied to certain terms that they must meet. Once someone receives their green card of visa status, they are allowed to make trips abroad and live outside for a specific amount of time. In most cases, it is a maximum of one year from the date of departure. For those who depart with a re-entry permit, the maximum allowed time can be 2 years from the date of departure.

If you stay outside of the US beyond these permitted limits, then your green card will be considered abandoned. Technically, your permanent resident card will be deemed invalid and you might be detained at the port of entry.

But all is not done. The US government understands that there might be certain circumstances outside of your control. You can apply for an SB-1 visa and Form DS-117 is a stepping stone into it.

Who Needs DS-117?

DS-117 is particularly for those applying for the SB-1 or Returning Resident Visa. Typically, it affects lawful permanent residents (LPR) or green card holders who stay outside of the United States beyond permitted limits. Not only permanent residents, but certain condition residents are also required to comply with this requirement.

Before you file the DS-117, you must meet certain eligibility criteria laid out by the Department of State. To qualify for the Returning Resident Visa, you must show that:

  • You weren’t out of status at the time of your departure from the United States.
  • You had the intent to return to the United States.
  • Your visit was supposed to be brief, but for some reason beyond your control, you couldn’t make a timely return.

 While the 1-year time limit holds for all permanent residents, there’s an exception to it. The rule is not applicable for spouses of children of US Armed Forces personnel or US civilian employees who are stationed abroad. They must, however, submit their permanent resident card and re-entry permit as proof that they haven’t relinquished residence.

How to Complete DS-117

DS-177 is an important form that initiates your Returning Resident Visa process. The form is a three-page document with instructions included. There will be a total of 15 questions asked. Even though most questions are straightforward, it is crucial to fill them correctly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to completing DS-117.

In the very first section, you’ll encounter the instructions section. Please read through it carefully and proceed to the following:

Q. 1 – The first question is regarding your first, middle, and last name. This should be self-explanatory and you just need to provide the right information with no title.

Q. 2 – In the second question, you’ll be asked if you have legally used any other name or aliases other than the one stated above. For married women, this can be your maiden name. So think about it and leave it blank if you don’t hold any other legal name.

Q. 3 – The third question is regarding your current home address and telephone number. You have to provide the address in the foreign country you’re staying at. If you’re staying at a hotel, provide the same. Then, the best phone number that can be used to reach you. The number should be in digits unless otherwise directed.

Q. 4 – The fourth question refers to your place of birth, where you were born. You need to provide the name of the city, province, and country. If you were born outside of the United States, then provide the foreign place where you were born.

Q. 5 – Put in your DOB or date of birth in the format MM-DD-YYYY. It’s important to maintain the correct format.

Q. 6 – The sixth section is going to be comparatively lengthy, but not difficult. Tick the correct option if you’ve been married, or never married, widowed, or divorced. You need to complete the subsequent sections if you have been legally married.

You need to provide the first, middle, and last name of your spouse. Then his/her address, place of birth, DOB, and US residence status, if applicable. So, the same thing you’ve filled out for yourself. Finally, you need to provide your marriage date as mentioned in the marriage certificates.

 Q. 7The seventh question will ask you to provide the details of all the close family members you have in the United States. You have to put in the full legal name, the relationship you have with him/her, current resident status, and place of residence. This is mainly for cross-verification purposes. You can provide as many contacts as you want.

Q. 8 –The eighth question will ask for your previous immigration records. You have to provide your “A” number, previous immigrant visa, immigration category, adjustment of status made, initial entry into the United States as LPR, last entry into the US as an LPR, port of entry date, etc. The dates should be accurate and reflective of the records.

Q. 9 – On the ninth question, you have to provide your most recent departure from the United States and the reason for it.

Q. 10 – For the tenth question, you have to explain the ties you have maintained with the United States since your departure. If you’ve made any attempts to avoid abandoning your resident status, then this is the section to explain it.

Q. 11 – To answer the eleventh question, you need to explain factual reasons why you weren’t able to return to the US on time. You’ll be providing proof for the same.

Q. 12 – In this question, you have to provide details of the journeys you have made outside the United States. Provide details of the countries you have traveled to and dates.  

Q. 13 – If you’ve ever been employed outside of the US since taking the LPR status, you need to provide the details. Otherwise, leave it blank.

Q. 14 – 14 and 15 are not questions for affirmations. In the fourteenth section, you’re declaring your wish to return to the United States.

Q. 15 – In the fifteenth section, you’re swearing the above information provided to be true to your knowledge. Provide your name and date.

Now, your part is done and the rest will be processed by the official at the Consulate.

Depending on your case, you need to supplement Form DS-117 with relevant documents. Permanent resident cards, passport stamps, Form I-551, reentry permits, tax returns, bank details are some of the common documents.

DS-117 Cost

For filing Form DS-117, you have to incur a processing fee of $180. You can pay this either by credit card or cash, either local cash or USD.

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While the process is fairly simple, we request you to get in touch with an attorney in case of any confusion with the filing process.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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