Generally, a Greencard holder (aka “Lawful Permanent Resident”) is required to maintain his/her worldwide domicile and residence in the United States, and should be physically present during 6 months of any 12-month period. Absences from the United States for over 12 months, can lead to a loss of the permanent resident status and lead to revocation of the Green Card, if certain precautions are not taken.
A Greencard holder who knows that he/she will be absent abroad (i.e. outside the U.S.) for a year or more, for sufficient cause (such as extended travel, temporary employment, course of study / training, etc.), may and should apply for a Reentry Permit. The application for issuance of a Reentry Permit, Form I-131, must be submitted prior to his/her departure from the United States. A Reentry Permit is generally valid for 24 months at a time.
Persons who have remained outside the United States for one year or more without a valid Reentry Permit, or beyond the validity of a Reentry Permit, may be eligible to apply for a “returning resident visa” (“SB-1″) with the Department of State Immigrant Visa Section at a U.S. Consulate.
A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa to an LPR who remained outside the U.S. (often due to circumstances beyond his/her control). You will need to be interviewed for both your application for returning resident status, and usually later for the immigrant visa. An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and have a medical examination. Therefore, this involves paying both visa processing fees and medical fees.
Under provisions of immigration law, to qualify for returning resident status, you will need to prove to the Consular Officer that you:
- Had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departure from the U.S.;
- Departed from the U.S. with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention; and
- Are returning to the U.S. from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.
If, after reviewing your Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, Form DS-117, and supporting documents, the Consular Officer determines that you do not meet the criteria for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa on the grounds that you have abandoned or relinquished your residence in the U.S., you may have to apply for an immigrant visa on the same basis and under the same category by which you immigrated originally.