Returning Resident Visa
Continuous Residence Requirement
Permanent residents that wish to reenter the U.S., need to present their green card and passport from their country of citizenship for readmission if the trip duration is less than one year. If the trip duration is greater than one year, but less than two years then a reentry permit is also needed to enter the U.S.

If you are U.S. Government personnel (military and direct-hire civil service employees), or spouse or minor children of U.S. Government personnel and hold legal resident status in the U.S., you may stay abroad for the extent of an official overseas project plus four months without losing your immigrant status. If you are the spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or of a civil employee of the U.S. Government stationed abroad on official orders, you may use your green card to enter the U.S. even if it has expired. In this case, you don't need Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa as long as you have not abandoned your green card status and your spouse or parent is returning to the U.S.

More information on Retaining Greencard

Options
However, all other permanent residents of the U.S. that remained abroad for more than twelve months without obtaining a reentry permit or past the validity period of a reentry permit, have two options:
  1. Go through the entire green card process all over again, just like you did originally. Your U.S. relative (family based) or U.S. employer (employer based) may file an immigrant petition on your behalf. Once your immigrant petition is approved, you may apply for an immigrant visa.

  2. You may apply for Returning Resident Visa (SB-1) by filing Form DS-117 and supporting documents. In order to do so, you must show evidence of the continued unbroken ties to the U.S. and that the trip was extended due to events beyond your control. Contact the nearest consular office well in advance of your planned travel (at least three months in advance, if possible) to allow sufficient time for visa processing. If your Returning Resident Visa is approved, you still have to go through the immigrant visa process.
Conditional residents that failed to file an application to have the conditional resident status removed are obligated to apply for a new immigrant visa. They are not eligible to apply for special immigrant status as a returning resident.

Eligibility
You may apply for returning resident status if:
  • At the time of departure from the U.S., you were a lawful permanent resident;

  • You left the U.S. with the goal of returning and have maintained (not abandoned) this intention;

  • If you are returning to the U.S. from a brief visit out of the country and your stay abroad was extended due to circumstances beyond your control and for which you were not responsible;

    Few examples that would make the travel back to the U.S. impossible or not recommended at all:
    • your own illness
    • your own pregnancy
    • your passport or other travel documents are withheld during family disputes
    • you can't get the permission to depart the country you are in

  • You are eligible for the immigrant visa in all other aspects.

You can't apply for Returning Resident Immigrant Visa (SB-1) if you have been outside the U.S. for less than one year or before the expiration of your re-entry permit.

You can't apply for Returning Resident Visa simply because you wanted to stay abroad for a long time, rather than you unexpectedly needed. E.g., the job market (economy) in the U.S. may not be good from time to time and it may be hard to find a job and therefore, you accept the job overseas. That is your decision under your control and you can return back to the U.S. in time to avoid losing your green card. Similarly, if you have old or sick relatives abroad that you need to take care of, you are making a decision under your control to take care of them and it is possible that they remain sick for a very long time and you keep delaying your return back to the U.S. Such reasons are not valid reasons.

Documents
  • Need to pay appropriate fee. The fee is non-refundable.
    Fee details

  • Form DS-117

  • Include evidence to support:
    • Proof of lawful permanent residence, e.g. Form I-151, I-551, Form I-327 Reentry Permit;

    • Dates of travel outside the U.S., e.g. airline tickets, passport stamps;

    • Proof of ties to the U.S. and intention to return, e.g.
      • tax returns (continuous compliance with U.S. tax law)
      • evidence of economic, family and social ties to the U.S.
      • ownership of property and assets in the U.S.
      • maintenance of U.S. licenses and memberships.

    • Proof that your stay was extended due to circumstances beyond your control, e.g. medical incapacitation, employment with a U.S. company, accompanying a U.S. spouse. Just having U.S. relatives, attending school overseas or stating the intent to return is generally insufficient.

  • Photos
    Submit 1 photograph

  • Original current and/or old passport(s) that proves your identity, admission into the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, and foreign immigration stamps on your return to your country from the U.S.

Note: All documents will be returned to you. However, you should keep a duplicate file copy of all documents submitted for your own records.

English translations of all foreign language documents are required.

Application
You need to apply in person at the consulate and the procedure may vary upon the consulate e.g., Note: The U.S. Consulate is closed on many Indian and all U.S. official holidays and on the last Friday of each month.

You must schedule an appointment at U.S. Consulate/Embassy in Japan (Tokyo, Naha), Cuba (Havana)

Interview
The consular officer will conduct a visa interview and determine whether you are eligible for returning resident status. After the interview, the consular officer will advise you of the next steps that you must take.

Approval
If your application is approved, you must finish the entire immigrant visa process all over again. That includes paying the immigrant visa fees, medical examination (and its fees), submitting civil documents and the interview. In other words, you will need to be interviewed twice, once for Returning Resident application and again for the immigrant visa. You must apply for immigrant visa within 6 months of getting approval for Returning Resident.

Denial
If the returning resident status is denied because you relinquished your residence in the U.S., it may or may not be possible for you to obtain a nonimmigrant visa. It would depend on whether you have established a residence abroad to which you will return. If you cannot submit persuasive evidence of ties abroad, you may have to apply for an immigrant visa on the same basis by which you immigrated originally, or any other new basis that you qualify for.

Abandoning Legal Permanent Resident Status
If you remained outside the U.S. for more than twelve months or past the validity period of a reentry permit, and your legal permanent resident status has lapsed and you plan to travel to the U.S. as a non-immigrant you may do so by filing Form I-407, Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Before a nonimmigrant visa is issued, you will most likely have to surrender I551.