Re-Entry Permit Cover Letter

If you are a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR), there are at least three situations where applying for a reentry permit may be beneficial: (a) if you will be abroad for one year or more; (b) if you will be abroad for more than six months for two consecutive years; and (c) if you have been warned by U.S. Customs and Border Inspection (CBP) officer that you are at risk of abandoning your permanent resident status.

What can you with this Guide to Reentry Permits?

Information contained here should not be construed as legal advice. Do not act or rely on this information without seeking legal advice from a qualified lawyer who learns your goals, investigates the specific facts of your case, researches how the law may apply to those facts, and then gives advice taking all that into account.


1. Introduction

1.1 Who Should Apply for a Reentry Permit?

If you are a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR), there are at least three situations where applying for a reentry permit may be beneficial: (a) if you will be abroad for one year or more; (b) if you will be abroad for more than six months for two consecutive years; and (c) if you have been warned by U.S. Customs and Border Inspection (CBP) officer that you are at risk of abandoning your permanent resident status.[1]

Salvador Dali’s reentry permit. The famous Spanish Catalan surrealist painter retreated to the United States during World War II. Source: National Archives via USA Today.

1.2 If You Will Be Abroad One Year or More

A Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card (i.e., green card) is only valid for entry after an absence from the U.S. of less than one year.[2]If you have been abroad for one year or more, the CBP officer at the port of entry won’t let you enter by merely showing the I-551.[3]

In contrast, a reentry permit can be valid for reentry to the U.S. for a period of up to two years.[4] So, if there is a significant chance that you will be abroad for a year or more, we recommend applying for a reentry permit before leaving the U.S.

1.3 If You Will Be Abroad for More than Six Months for Two Years in a Row

To allow you to reenter the U.S. as an LPR, the CBP officer at the port of entry must determine that you are returning from a “temporary” trip abroad.[5] If the trip abroad wasn’t temporary, then you have “abandoned” your LPR status, making you ineligible for readmission.

When is a trip abroad “temporary”? According to the courts, a trip abroad is temporary only if you possess an intention at the time of departure and throughout the entire trip to return to the U.S. as a place of employment or business or as an actual home “within a period relatively short, fixed by some early event.”[6] If the return date “hing[es] on a contingency,” that contingency must have a “reasonable possibility of occurring” within a short period of time.[7] It’s not enough that the intent to be to return “at some indefinite time in the possibly distant future.”[8]And it’s not enough to intend to retain your LPR status.[9]

Since CBP has no direct way to determine intention, a number of factors are used to try to deduce your intention, including:[10]

  • purpose for departing
  • termination date of travel abroad
  • place of employment
  • place of actual home and property ties
  • family ties to the U.S.;
  • payment of U.S. income taxes as a U.S. resident; and
  • the proportion of time you are in the U.S. versus abroad.

Many LPRs believe that by visiting the U.S. every year or every six months they can avoid abandonment of LPR status.[11] But that is pure myth.[12] Such persons’ stay abroad isn’t “temporary” because they lack the intention to return to live in the U.S. within a relatively short period of time.

In other cases, it’s difficult to determine whether a planned stay abroad is temporary. For example, what about going abroad to care for sick relative who may or may not recover within two years? What about going abroad to start a business that may or may not be self-sustaining enough to allow you to return to the U.S. in three years?

In such cases, there is a benefit to applying for a reentry permit. If the permit is issued, there is a legal presumption that the approved trip is “temporary.”[13] So, applying for a reentry permit can reduce the risk that a CBP officer at the airport or other port of entry could determine you have abandoned LPR status by making a non-temporary trip abroad.

Our recommendation: if you will be outside the U.S. for more than 6 months for two consecutive years, there is a significant risk CBP may determine your stay abroad is not temporary, so you should apply for a reentry permit.

1.4 If CBP Has Warned That You Are at Risk of Abandonment

Another situation where you should obviously consider applying for a reentry permit is if a CBP officer has warned you that you are at risk for abandonment. This can happen at the port of entry when you are returning to the U.S. from abroad. The officer may notice that you have been abroad for a significant period of time and advise you that you a non-temporary trip abroad will lead to abandonment of your LPR status. The officer may place a stamp that looks like this in your passport:

Figure 1. “Advised”: This means that the LPR holder was advised that non-temporary trips abroad may result in abandonment.

Note: ARC means the individual presented an alien registration card, i.e., a green card.

Figure 2. “Out 5 months, 29 days.”

Figure 3: “Advised Residency Requirements”

1.5 Related Issues Not Covered in This Article

This article covers the requirements and procedures to apply for a reentry permit, as well as the terms and conditions of residence permits. Related issues that are not covered in this article include:

  1. As explained above, a reentry permit is presumptive but not conclusive evidence that LPR status hasn’t been abandoned during a trip abroad. You should collect and make available to the CBP inspector additional evidence of the temporary nature of any extended stay abroad.
  2. An LPR seeking readmission to the U.S. is subject to the grounds of inadmissibility. These grounds prohibit the admission of certain classes, such as persons convicted of specified crimes or likely to become public charges.[14]
  3. Extended stays abroad may impact your eligibility for naturalization.
  4. An LPR who has been absent from the U.S. for one year or more and who has no reentry permit may be eligible to apply at a U.S. Consulate abroad for an SB-1 returning resident visa or may be eligible to apply to CBP for a waiver of the entry document requirement.
  5. If you are an LPR married to a U.S. citizen who is working abroad for any of the following types of entities, you may be eligible for expeditious naturalization under section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act without any required period of residence of physical presence in the U.S.
  • the U.S. Government
  • an American institution of research recognized as such by the Attorney General
  • “an American firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States, or a subsidiary thereof”
  • a public international organization in which the U.S. participates by treaty or statute; or
  • religious denomination or interdenominational mission having a bona fide organization within the U.S.

For more, see our firm’s Guide to Expeditious Naturalization at

Our law firm can provide advice on these topics.

2. Eligibility Requirements

USCIS may, as a matter of discretion, issue a reentry permit to a person meeting the following requirements:

  1. You have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. as an LPR or conditional resident.[15]
  2. You have not abandoned that status, as discussed above.
  3. You intend in good faith to make a temporary trip abroad.[16]
  4. You must be physically present in the United States at the time of filing.[17] For this purpose, the United States means the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.[18]
  5. Departing the U.S. after you file has no effect on the application,[19] although as explained below you would need to return to the U.S. for a biometrics appointment if you are between ages 14 and 79.[20]
  6. Issuance would not be contrary to the U.S. national interest.[21]

3. Procedures to Apply for a Reentry Permit

3.1 Where to File

The application is filed by mail with the USCIS lockbox in Phoenix or Dallas, depending on the state where you live.[22] E-filing is not available.[23]

USCIS will then forward the application to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center for adjudication.[24]

3.2 What to File

The initial documentation that must be filed with the reentry permit application includes[25]:

  1. Filing Fee: $360 for Form I-131 and $85 for biometrics (for applicants age 14 through 79)
  2. Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
  3. A copy of the front and back of Form I-551 (or other evidence of LPR status per the Form I-131 instructions)
  4. A copy of a second official photo identity document clearly showing your photo, name, and date of birth. (Example: passport ID page, prior reentry permit, a valid government-issued driver’s license; passport identity page; or any other official identity document.)

In applicable cases, it may be helpful to file the following additional documents:

  1. Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney, to notify USCIS that our firm represents you.
  2. Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application Acceptance. This is a request that USCIS notify the applicant by email or SMS when the case is accepted for filing.
  3. Any previously issued but unexpired reentry permit or refugee travel document should be returned to USCIS so that it can be voided.[26]
  4. Evidence of any name change[27]
  5. Form I-797C, Receipt Notice, for any pending Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Condition of Residence. (This notice will show the date to which your LPR status has been extended.)
  6. Evidence the travel abroad will be temporary: USCIS adjudicators are instructed to determine whether the applicant intends to travel abroad temporarily based on review of the application and the A-file, considering factors such as “the applicant’s previous absences, the intended absence, and whether the applicant has ties (property, family employment, etc.) in the U.S.”[28] It’s curious, then, that USCIS doesn’t request that the initial filing include related evidence or encourage adjudicators to solicit related documents through a request for evidence. We speculate that USCIS conceives of the I-131 as a mere declaration of the applicant’s intent, whereas later when the applicant seeks admission to the U.S. based on the reentry permit CBP will have an opportunity to review evidence to determine whether the stay abroad was in fact temporary. Usually we don’t file evidence of temporariness with the I-131. Still, there may be cases where it is helpful to submit evidence the travel abroad will be temporary.[29]
  7. If you fall within the grounds of inadmissibility, you may be able to file a waiver application with your reentry permit application.[30]
  8. If you are applying for a reentry permit immediately after entering the U.S., it may be helpful to submit a copy of your passport, including the page stamped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon your entry to the U.S. plus your boarding pass for your flight to the U.S.
  9. If you are under age 14 or over age 79, it can be helpful to submit 2 U.S.-passport style photos. Otherwise, USCIS will require that you attend a biometrics appointment to be photographed.[31]
  10. Documents in support of any request for expedited processing, such as
    1. FedEx label and envelope to forward the biometrics appointment notice to applicant
    2. Statement why expedited processing is sought
    3. Evidence of need for expedited processing.

3.3 Receipt Notice

Within about two weeks of filing the application, USCIS should issue a Form I-797C, Receipt Notice.

3.4 Biometrics Appointment

After the receipt notice, applicants will receive a notice to attend a biometrics appointment. Applicants age 14 to 79 will be fingerprinted, photographed, and provide a signature. Applicants outside that age range will need to attend the appointment to be photographed unless they have provided two clear, printed U.S. passport-style photos with their application.[32]

The biometrics appointment will be scheduled at a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) with jurisdiction over your U.S. residence. The biometrics appointment cannot be completed abroad.[33]

It normally takes about 4-6 weeks from filing to the biometrics appointment.[34] So we recommend applying for a reentry permit as early as possible before travel.

Failure to appear for a biometrics appointment may result in denial of the reentry permit application, unless the appointment is rescheduled.

3.5 Options to Waiting in the U.S. for the Biometrics Appointment

What if you can’t wait in the U.S. the normal 4-6 weeks from the time of filing until the time of the biometrics appointment? You have other options: request an expedited appointment; walk in to the local ASC or a different one (even Guam, Saipan, or Honolulu); leave the U.S. and come back for your appointment; reschedule the appointment; or ask to be fingerprinted at a USCIS office abroad.

Expedited Appointment

USCIS may expedite a biometrics appointment as a matter of discretion. In this case, it can take 7 to 14 days from filing to the appointment.[35]

To request expedited processing, you should include with your application a written explanation of the reason your travel abroad is urgent.[36] This should be supported by any available evidence of the urgency.

USCIS has stated that an applicant who lives abroad will ordinarily qualify for expedited scheduling, subject to availability of appointment slots at the ASC.[37] USCIS will review your request to determine whether it meets or more of the following criteria:[38]

  • Severe financial loss to company or individual
  • Extreme emergent situation
  • Humanitarian situation
  • Nonprofit status of requesting organization in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
  • Department of Defense or National Interest Situation (Note: Request must come from official United States Government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to our Government)
  • USCIS error
  • Compelling interest of USCIS

To request an expedited biometrics appointment, notate the outside of the envelope and top of Form I-131 with the word EXPEDITE. Include a pre-paid, self-addressed express mailer, to send you the biometrics appointment notice. Also provide your email address and a fax number.[39]

Additionally, it may be helpful to specify any dates you prefer the appointment or are unavailable for the appointment.

Walk In to the Local ASC or a Different One (Even Guam, Saipan, or Honolulu)

Even if you are unable to expedite your biometrics appointment, it may be possible to walk in to the ASC with jurisdiction over your place of residence at a different time. You’ll need to explain your situation, bring your biometrics appointment notice (if you have one), and at some ASCs you’ll need to provide proof of your departure date and urgent need to depart (such as a letter from your employer).[40]

It may also be possible to go to a different ASC. If you live in Asia, it may be more convenient to attend a biometrics appointment at the ASC in Honolulu (Hawaii), Saipan, or Guam[41] than to travel to the continental U.S.

Allowing biometrics processing without an appointment is a matter within each ASC’s discretion, so ask your lawyer to check whether it’s currently possible.[42]


Leave the U.S. and Come Back for Your Appointment

You also have the option of leaving the U.S. after your I-131 has been received and accepted by USCIS, then returning in time for the biometrics appointment.


Reschedule Your Biometrics Appointment

If the appointment time is inconvenient, you can request that it be rescheduled. Follow the instructions on the appointment notice. The request can be made by phone to the USCIS National Customer Service Center.[43] In the alternative, the request can be made by mail to the address shown on the appointment notice. If by mail, attach the original appointment notice and keep a copy for your records.[44] Also attach a reasonable excuse for failure to appear for the initially scheduled appointment.[45] You can specify your preferred date for the rescheduled appointment, although USCIS may or may not be able to honor your request. Note that USCIS’ scheduling system only allows setting appointments no more than 30 days out.[46] In addition, your request can be for an appointment at a different ASC if you file a change of address.[47]

Note that the rescheduling request must be made prior to the originally scheduled appointment date. Late requests will not be honored. Instead, the application will be considered abandoned and denied.[48] Also, an application will be considered abandoned in any case where the biometrics appointment hasn’t taken place within 120 days of filing the I-131.[49] A motion to reopen may be entertained by USCIS on a case-by-case basis.[50]

Ask to Be Fingerprinted at a USCIS Office Abroad

Beginning in December 2015, USCIS has permitted limited biometrics appointments at their international offices. For a list of such offices, see USCIS, International Immigration Offices, (June 6, 2015).

The stated policy[51] is:

In rare circumstances, FODs [field office directors] may use their discretion to collect biometrics that were initially scheduled to be taken in the United States. When deciding whether to collect biometrics at an international field office, FODs will take into account resource constraints, and also consider appropriate supporting evidence the applicant provides as well as the following factors:

  • An appointment notice showing that biometrics collection was scheduled at a domestic USCIS office;
  • Evidence of extenuating circumstances that would require the individual to depart the United States before having his or her biometrics collected as indicated in the appointment notice. For example, these circumstances might include, but are not limited to, the need to assist a critically ill family member, an unexpected immediate job transfer, or other urgent need; and
  • Evidence that the applicant requested an expedited or rescheduled appointment at an ASC before leaving the United States and, if not, an explanation of the reasons for failing to request an expedited or rescheduled appointment.

For Those Residing Abroad:

Evidence of the compelling circumstances or hardship that would prevent the applicant or petitioner from traveling back to the United States for an ASC appointment. Generally, the expense of traveling back to the United States would not, in itself, be considered a hardship. Because of the small number of staff in our international offices, you may experience a delay in appointment availability for biometrics collection.

According to USCIS, this policy is still the subject of “internal discussion” at USCIS so is subject to change.[52]

3.6 Interview

USCIS may require that you appear for an interview on your application for a reentry permit,[53] but in practice this is rare.

3.7 Processing Times

Currently, USCIS Nebraska Service Center is taking about 3 months to adjudicate a reentry permit application.[54]

3.8 Adjudication and Delivery

If the application is approved, the reentry permit will be mailed to you at the address requested in Form I-131. You can choose on the form delivery to the applicant’s U.S. address, the attorney’s address, or to a U.S. Consulate or DHS office abroad.[55] Reentry permits may not be delivered to a foreign address.

If the application is denied, USCIS will explain why and provide an opportunity to appeal.[56] If the denial is on the basis that the applicant has abandoned LPR status, USCIS may refer the case to investigations to consider instituting removal (i.e., deportation) proceedings or post a lookout notice that can be seen by CBP at ports of entry.[57]

The reentry permit comes in the form of a passport-style booklet that contains blank pages for CBP to place admission stamps. Some countries will allow use of the reentry permit in lieu of a passport, so foreign visas and admission stamps can also be placed on these blank pages.

Key Data on the Reentry Permit’s ID Page

Key data to look for on the ID page of a reentry permit includes:

  • Personal Data: Check to make sure that all of your personal data is correct. This includes your name, date of birth, passport number, gender, etc.
  • Category: This should read “PR,” assuming you are a permanent resident.
  • Personal #: This should be the same A# as on your green card.
  • Issuance and Expiration Dates: Check the issuance and expiration dates to be sure they are as expected.
  • Entries: This should read “M” for multiple.
  • Restrictions: There should be none.

4. Terms and Conditions of the Reentry Permit

4.1 Validity

A reentry permit is generally valid for a maximum period of two years,[58] except:

  • A permit issued to a conditional resident will not be valid beyond the date that conditional resident status expires, as shown on the I-551 or the receipt notice issued upon filing either the Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence or the Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.[59]
  • If you have been outside the U.S. for more than 4 of the last 5 years since becoming an LPR, the reentry permit will be limited to 1 year (except that the permit will be valid for 2 years in the case of an LPR who is a professional athlete, traveling on U.S. government orders, or employed by a public international organization).[60]
  • A reentry permit is voided if you are removed (i.e., deported or excluded) from the U.S.[61]

The period of validity commences on the date of issuance and not on the date the application for the permit was filed.[62] During the period of validity, such permit can be used for multiple reentries into the US.[63]

A reentry permit cannot be extended,[64] although a subsequent application can be filed.[65]

4.2 Seeking Admission to the U.S. with a Reentry Permit

To seek readmission to the U.S. at an international airport or other port of entry, present your reentry permit to the inspector. Carry your green card and passport too. The reentry permit will serve as a valid entry document, and it is presumptive—but not conclusive—evidence that you have not abandoned LPR status.

Inspection could be brief, or the officer could take you to a separate office for detailed questioning, perhaps under oath. The officer may interview you to determine issues such as:

  • Whether you fall within any of the grounds of inadmissibility.
  • Whether your reentry permit application contained any material false misrepresentation or concealment, which would void the permit.[66]
  • Whether your reentry permit was issued in error.[67]
  • Whether there is strong evidence overcoming the presumption that you haven’t abandoned LPR status.[68]

As mentioned above, the officer may ask for additional documentation that your trip abroad was temporary.[69] You should prepare such evidence before your trip and pack it in your carry-on luggage. This should include evidence that you were actually abroad for the reasons stated in your Form I-131. For example, if you are abroad for temporary work, it may be appropriate to present the temporary work contract and a recent paycheck stub. This should also include evidence that you have retained ties to the U.S. consistent with an intention to return to the U.S. as your main residence, such as evidence of an actual home and property ties in the U.S., family ties in the U.S., and payment of U.S. income taxes.

If the officer is satisfied, you will be admitted and the officer should stamp the reentry permit to show this.[70]

But if the officer is not satisfied that your trip abroad has been merely temporary, the officer has several options:

  • Refer you to deferred inspection to further investigate the matter.
  • Allow you to withdraw your application for admission and return abroad.
  • Allow you to relinquish your LPR status and be admitted as a nonimmigrant.
  • Issue a notice to appear for a removal (i.e., deportation or exclusion) hearing in Immigration Court.

Our law firm is available to represent clients in preparing to seek readmission to the U.S. with the reentry permit when there is any doubt regarding eligibility.

A Re-entry Permit is a document issued by the USCIS to lawful permanent residents ("green card" holders) as a travel document. Green card holders use re-entry permits to re-enter the U.S. after travel of one year or more.

A re-entry permit does NOT take the place of your "greencard," nor of your passport. Instead, you use a Re-entry Permit IN ADDITION to your greencard, and passport.

For green card holders returning to the U.S., re-entry permits are generally valid for two years from the date of issuance of the re-entry permit. A green card holder should apply for this benefit before leaving the U.S.

Conditional residents also use re-entry permits to re-enter the U.S. after travel of one year or more. For conditional residents returning to the U.S., re-entry permits are generally valid for two years from the date of issuance of the re-entry permit or until the date the conditional resident must apply for the removal of conditions, whichever comes first. The conditional resident should apply for this benefit before leaving the U.S.

Example Re-entry Permit: Cover
Example Re-entry Permit: Inside

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