DS 117 experience
For the benefit of others, I'd like to share our recent successful DS-117 experience at the New Delhi US Consulate.
My wife & I are Indian citizens and US greencard holders. We are presently in India on a travel permit which allows us to be outside of US for upto two years. We've been here for almost 3 years now and wished to return to US , while keeping alive our permanent resident status. As per US Embassy's website :
If you do not enter the U.S. within one year or if your re-entry permit is not valid, you cannot re-enter the U.S. without a new visa. Your options for a new visa are as follows:
* a Returning Resident immigrant visa (SB-1); or
* a new immigrant visa from another category.
How do I qualify for a Returning Resident visa?
To qualify for a Returning Resident immigrant visa you must establish that you continue to maintain a permanent residence in the U.S. and your absence abroad beyond the permitted time limit was due to circumstances beyond your control.
How do I apply?
If you believe you are eligible for a Returning Resident immigrant visa (SB-1) you are required to:
1. Complete a Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status. This form is available online or from your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate
2. Obtain demand draft in Indian rupees or U.S. dollars and drawn on a nationalized or foreign bank for the nonrefundable application fee. The demand draft must favor the "U.S. Embassy, New Delhi" or the consulate, as applicable. Conversion from U.S. dollars to Indian rupees must be at the Consular Exchange Rate. Note: You can also pay the application fee with cash using U.S. dollars only
3. Obtain the evidence that shows that: (1) you had the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of departure from the U.S.; (2) you departed from the United States with the intention of returning and you have not abandoned this intention; and (3) you 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 are not responsible. Read the section below named "What evidence should I bring?"
4. You may apply for Returning Resident status any working day, Monday through Friday without any prior appointment, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Come to the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, and bring with you your completed Form DS-117, the demand draft, evidence of Lawful Permanent Resident status and reason(s) for remaining outside the U.S. At the Embassy you will have a visa interview conducted by a consular officer. The officer will determine whether or not you are eligible for returning resident status. After the interview, the officer will advise you on the next steps, if any, you must take.
What evidence should I bring?
You should bring to the Embassy or consulate evidence that supports the following visa qualification requirements:
1. You had the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of departure from the U.S.
2. You departed from the U.S. with the intention of returning and you have not abandoned this intention
3. You 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 are not responsible
Your evidence must include the following:
* Proof of lawful permanent residence (Examples: Form I-151, I-551, Re-entry Permit, etc.)
* Dates of travel outside of the U.S. (Examples: airline tickets, passport stamps, etc.)
* Proof of ties to the U.S. and intention to return (Examples: tax returns, and evidence of economic, family, and social ties to the U.S.)
* Proof a protracted stay was for reasons beyond your control (Examples: medical incapacitation, employment with a U.S. company, accompanying a U.S. citizen spouse, etc.)
Note: All documents will be returned to you.
We turned up at the US Embassy at about 8 AM in the morning with our complete DS-117 and support papers. I'd suggest one to refrain from bringing any mobile phones, pagers, electronic devices, cameras etc. to the Embassy as they have to be deposited outside the main gate and usually there's a long queue for the same. Since, we had mobile phones on us, it was already about 9:00 AM by the time we got into the Embassy.
It was however easy from there-on. We were first called by a visa officer who looked at our papers (no discussion here) and asked us to submit the fees ($380 per applicant) . The fees can be submitted by draft, by cash using Indian Rs or USD or by using an international credit card which pays in US currency. While it says on the website that only USD is acceptable as cash, I saw people paying their application fees using Indian currency. Please call Emabssy office and confirm this as this can save you the hassle of getting bank drafts made and allows you to pay in local currency.
After paying fees, we waited for for approx 2 hrs for an interview with a visa officer . The visa officer was courteous, positive and trusting. Our return to the US had been delayed because of us having a baby in the interim and my wife was immobilized because of pregnancy related complications. We had all her medical records to show and the visa officer seemed suitably convinced. We also had with us all our latest US Tax returns (which we'd filed as permanent residents) , but I'm not sure they were of any consequence. We also had some emails from friends/ family in the US to support our continued linkages with the country, but again in our case, the officer didn't bother to ask for any of this. The interview was over in 2-3 minutes and she told us that she's approving our DS-117 application for us to file returning resident visa. All-in-all a very hassle-free experience and we're out of the Embassy in about 4 hours total.
It seemed to me that the most important thing they are looking for is to be convinced that your reasons to have extended your stay beyond allowed time, was owing to conditions outside of your direct control (medical incapacitation, employment with a U.S. company, accompanying a U.S. citizen spouse, etc.) If you have a reasonable convincing argument on this matter, do take your chances and file for DS-117. Also, it's pertinent here that we didn't have any movable/ immovable assets in the US, so that too couldn't have played any positive role in the decision of the visa officer.
That's our experience. Your mileage may vary :-)