Permanent residents who wish to reenter the U.S. need to present their green card and passport from their country of citizenship to reenter, as long as the duration of the trip is less than six months. Within six months, people are generally considered to have taken a vacation or short trip abroad and are returning home.
If the trip is longer than six months but shorter than one year, the person is considered to be seeking readmission and may be asked questions regarding the trip to see whether or not they have abandoned their residence while abroad.
If the duration of the trip is more than one year, and the applicant knew before departing that they would be out of the United States for that amount of time, then they may consider applying for a re-entry permit, which will allow them to stay out of the country for up to two years with the ability to reenter multiple times if needed.
However, there are some people who get caught outside the U.S. and cannot return before one year. Technically speaking, being outside the US for one year or more effectively abandons one’s green card status.
A permanent resident who remained outside the country for more than one year without obtaining a reentry permit can either go through the entire green card process all over again or apply for a returning resident visa, also known as a SB-1 visa.
With an SB-1 Visa, issued by a consular post, the individual will be able to retain their residence and return to the United States as a permanent resident without interruption. To apply for an SB-1 visa, a returning resident must show that the trip was extended as a result of events beyond their control.
Some examples why an extended stay abroad was necessary include illness, death, pregnancy, or permission was not granted to leave the foreign country.
A permanent resident may be eligible for a SB-1 visa if:
• At the time of departure from the U.S., the individual was a lawful permanent resident;
• When leaving the U.S., the individual did not leave with the intention of not coming back; or
• The extended stay was due to circumstances beyond their control and for which they are not responsible for.
There are a few individuals who do not need the SB-1 visa even if they have been outside of the U.S for more than two years. They include spouses and children of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or civilian employees of the U.S. government stationed abroad.
If an individual falls within those two categories, then they may use their Permanent Resident Card to enter the U.S. even if it expired.
The processing time for the SB-1 visa is between three and six months. If an individual’s application for the SB-1 visa is denied, then they will not be allowed to enter the U.S. again without another valid visa.
Dev Banad Viswanath is an attorney with Banad Law Office.