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How to get back your permanent resident status if you have lost it due to travel abroad

During the pandemic, many US permanent residents (green card holders) who left the country were unable to return to the United States in time due to flight cancellations and border closures. If you have not been to the United States for a long time, then most likely you have lost your permanent resident status and now you will need a special visa to return to the States. What you need to know and do, explains US Consular Service.

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A permanent resident (called lawful permanent resident, LPR or conditional resident, CR) who has remained outside the United States for more than one year or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit will need a new immigrant visa to enter the United States and renew permanent residency.

Under US visa law, there is a provision for issuing a special immigrant visa for a returning LPR resident who has remained outside the United States for longer than a specified period due to circumstances beyond his control.

If you are an LPR and cannot return to the United States within the green card retention period (1 year) or the re-entry permit validity period (2 years), you may be eligible for a special visa. You can apply for it at the nearest US embassy or consulate. This will be an application for Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1).

You will need to go through an interview both to return your US resident status and usually later to obtain an immigrant visa.

An SB-1 visa applicant must prove eligibility for an immigrant visa and undergo a medical examination. Therefore, this involves paying both visa processing fees and medical expenses.

Step 1 - Eligibility for the return of resident status

To be eligible for the return of resident status, you need to prove to the consular officer that you:

  • had lawful permanent resident status at the time of departure from the United States;
  • left the United States with the intention of returning and did not abandon this intention; and
  • you are returning to the USA from temporary overseas visit, and if the stay abroad was long, it was caused by reasons beyond your control, for which you are not responsible.

Applying for a Visa for a Returning Resident

If you wish to apply for a Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1), you should contact the nearest US embassy or consulate prior to your intended travel to America (at least three months in advance, if possible) to allow sufficient time for visa processing ... As part of the visa application process, an interview is required at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Check country specific instructions and information by reviewing U.S. Embassy or Consulate websitewhere you will be applying.

Required documents

When applying for a Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1), you must submit the following forms and documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying:

  • completed application to determine the status of a returning resident, form DS-117;
  • your permanent resident card, Form I-551;
  • your re-entry permit, if any.

You must also provide supporting documents that show:

  • date of departure from the United States (examples: airline tickets, passport stamps, etc.);
  • proof of your ties to the United States and your intention to return (examples: tax returns and proof of economic, family, and social ties with the United States);
  • proof that your long stay outside the United States was due to reasons beyond your control (for example, medical disability, work in an American company, border closures due to a pandemic, etc.).

The consular officer will review your application and supporting documents to determine if you meet the criteria for returning resident status (SB-1).

On the subject: Becoming a US citizen is more profitable than renewing a green card: how much does it cost

Mandatory fees

Below are the fees you will need to pay:

  • Returning Resident Status Determination Application Form DS-117 (current dues Department of State).

In addition, if you are approved for Returning Resident (SB-1) status, the following fees will be required depending on the processing of your immigrant visa:

  • DS-260 application processing fee;
  • medical examination and vaccination fees.

Step 2 - Immigrant Visa Application and Documents

The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will provide you with specific instructions for the remainder of the processing for your Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1). The exact instructions may differ depending on the embassy or consulate, but there are a number of general documents that must be submitted.

Before the interview, you will need to undergo a medical examination and vaccination (instructions for passing it and a list of vaccinations must be issued at the embassy); as well as the following documents:

  • form DS-260, an application for an immigrant visa and registration of a foreigner (example here);
  • original passport;
  • two photos matching requirements;
  • a list of civil documents that must be brought to an interview for an immigrant visa at the request of the embassy or consulate.

Review country specific instructions and additional information by reviewing U.S. Embassy or Consulate websitewhere you will be applying.

If your application is not approved

If, after reviewing your application, the consular officer determines that you are not eligible for a Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1), it may even be in question to obtain a future nonimmigrant visa to the United States. Everything will depend on whether you have registered a place of residence in another country and whether you can provide convincing evidence of serious ties with the country where you should return after a nonimmigrant trip to the United States. You may need to apply for an immigrant visa on the same basis and in the same category in which you originally immigrated.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

About international travel and permanent residents

As a permanent resident, before you leave the United States to temporarily travel abroad and then attempt to return to the United States, you should read important information from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Learn about travel documentsincluding re-entry permit and uniform I-131, on the USCIS website. For information for permanent residents returning to the United States from an overseas trip, visit CBP website.

Read also on ForumDaily:

Three features of life in the United States that infuriate immigrants

Abandoning the American Dream: the story of those who returned to their homeland

How an illegal immigrant can be legalized in the USA

How to Recognize Immigration Fraud and Protect Yourself: USCIS Recommendations

Miscellaneous green card immigration status Immigration in the USA
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