Are you a U.S. permanent resident?
Have you been outside of the country for 6 months or longer?
Are you now coming back to the U.S. using a reentry permit?
In this guide, I’m going to discuss how to properly use your reentry permit to reenter the U.S.
- Overview of Reentry Permits
- Presenting Your Valid Reentry Permit
- Documenting Your Trip
- Documenting Your Ties to the U.S.
1. Overview of Reentry Permits
What’s a Reentry Permit?
A reentry permit is a document, kind of like a passport, that is designed to help protect your status.
A Reentry Permit Protects you by Creating a Presumption that you Intend to Stay a Permanent Resident
If you’re a permanent resident and you leave the United States for 6 months or longer, you can be questioned by an immigration officer when you return to the United States.
Immigration officers are looking to see if you have abandoned your residence in the U.S.
Your status as a permanent resident can be abandoned if your trip outside of the U.S. was not “temporary.”
The definition of temporary is highly complex, so I’ll do my best to simplify it:
A trip is temporary if at the time of your departure from the U.S., you had the intention of returning to the U.S. as an actual home or place of employment, and while staying abroad, you did not abandon that intention. The trip abroad should be for a definite reason (such as for education or training) and should be expected to terminate within a relatively short period of time.
A reentry permit creates a presumption that your trip was temporary and that you intend to stay a permanent resident.
A Reentry Permit Allows you to Reenter the U.S. After Absences of a Year or Longer
As a permanent resident, you are free to travel the U.S.
However, if you travel for a year or longer, your green card (Form I-551), is no longer valid as an entry document.
This means that your green card cannot be used by itself to get back into the U.S.
With a reentry permit, you can leave the U.S. for up to 2 years and then use your reentry permit to reenter the country.
2. Presenting Your Valid Reentry Permit
When you are seeking readmission to the United States after an absence of 6 months or longer, you should have your valid reentry permit with you. You should also have your green card (Form I-551) and your passport.
Make sure that you reenter the U.S. while your reentry permit is still valid. You should be seeking readmission to the U.S. prior to the expiration date shown on your reentry permit.
If you’ve been outside the U.S. for a year or longer, your reentry permit will function as an entry document.
Your reentry permit will also create a presumption that your trip outside the U.S. was temporary and that you intend to stay a U.S. permanent resident.
3. Documenting Your Trip
As we’ve discussed throughout this guide, your reentry permit creates a presumption that your travel outside of the United States was temporary and that you intend to stay a U.S. permanent resident.
However, if the reason you stated on your reentry permit application is not the actual reason for your travel, this presumption is lost.
Immigration officers may ask you questions to determine whether the reason for your travels matches the reason stated on your reentry permit application.
To best protect yourself, you should have documentation ready to show that your reason for leaving the U.S. matches the stated reason on your reentry permit application.
For example: If your reentry permit application states that you were leaving the U.S. for a temporary work assignment, you should provide pay stubs and other similar documentation to prove this.
4. Documenting Your Ties to the U.S.
By having a valid reentry permit, immigration officers should not re-assess the question of whether you have maintained a residence in the United States or whether your absence from the United States was temporary.
However, it is important to remember that your reentry permit does not give you a 100% guarantee that you will be readmitted to the U.S.
Your reentry permit creates a presumption that your trip was temporary and that you intend to stay a U.S. permanent resident.
However, immigration officers may try to look for evidence to overcome this presumption.
To best protect yourself, you should prepare documentation showing your ties to the United States. You should have these documents printed and ready to show immigration officers when returning to the U.S. with your reentry permit.
Here are some examples of evidence of your ties to the U.S.:
- U.S. driver’s license issued within the last year
- Evidence of U.S. employment
- Proof that you have filed U.S. tax returns within the last year
- Evidence of home ownership or other property ownership in the U.S.
- Evidence that your children are enrolled in school in the U.S.
- Evidence of U.S. bank account
- Recent bills addressed to your U.S. address
It is important to know how to properly use your reentry permit when coming back to the United States. You should make sure to reenter while your reentry permit is still valid (before the expiration date listed on the reentry permit). You should prepare, and have ready, documents showing that your reason for leaving the U.S. matches the reason stated on your reentry permit application. You should also prepare, and have ready, documents that show your ties to the United States.
- Business Immigration: Law and Practice, 2nd Vol. 2: Chapter 4