I-131 Application for a Re-Entry Permit
If you are a permanent resident who will be outside the United States for more than one year, you will need to have a re-entry permit in order to be admitted into the United States upon your return. Your permanent resident card will not be enough to get you back in the United States. Sometimes a re-entry permit can serve as a passport for permanent residents that cannot get passports from their home countries.
You must be physically present in the United States to apply for a re-entry permit. You must also complete biometrics (fingerprinting) in the United States before you leave. To apply for a re-entry permit, you must file Form I-131 with the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If at all possible, you should file your I-131 Application at least one or two months before leaving the United States.
Re-entry permits are generally valid for two years from the date they are issued. You may travel in and out of the United States multiple times while your re-entry permit is valid. However, you cannot apply to extend your re-entry permit. You must return to the United States before the expiration date listed on your re-entry permit, and if you need to, file an application for a new re-entry permit.
Having a re-entry permit is good evidence that you did not intend to give up your permanent resident status in the United States. If you are a permanent resident and you stay outside the United States for more than one year and then attempt to return without a re-entry permit, the government may argue that you have abandoned your permanent resident status and put you in removal proceedings.
Although a re-entry permit is good evidence that you did not intend to abandon your permanent resident status, it does not preserve your residence for the purpose of applying for U.S. citizenship. If you stay outside the United States for more than a year, you will break the requirement for U.S. citizenship of five years of continuous residency in the United States. If you are outside the United States for more than six months but less than a year, there is a presumption that you have broken your continuous residency in the United States.
We regularly represent immigrants in their applications for re-entry permits and other travel documents and would be happy to talk with you about your specific case.