A reentry permit is a travel document for green card holders. The main benefit of a reentry permit is that it helps to protect your status as a permanent resident, even if you need to leave the United States for long periods of time.
In this guide, I’ll discuss the reentry permit renewal process. When you’re finished reading, you should have a much better understanding of how to renew your reentry permit.
If you have any questions, or if you need help with your reentry permit renewal, please email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com.
- Quick Introduction on Reentry Permits
- How to Renew Your Reentry Permit: Step-by-Step
- Can I Apply for a Reentry Permit Renewal if My Current Reentry Permit is Still Valid?
- How Many Times Can I Apply for a New Reentry Permit?
- Tips for Success
1. Quick Introduction on Reentry Permits
What is a Reentry Permit?
A reentry permit is a travel document for U.S. permanent residents. It looks similar to a passport. It’s a small booklet with you photo, identifying information, and several pages to place stamps and visas within it.
Why Do I Need a Reentry Permit?
As a U.S. green card holder, you are required to maintain your permanent resident status. Leaving the U.S. for longer than 6 months can put your green card at risk. A reentry permit helps you by creating a legal presumption that you do not intend to abandon your green card based on your travel outside of the United States.
How Long is a Reentry Permit Valid For?
A reentry permits is usually valid for a period of 2 years from the date it is issued.
However, if you’ve been outside of the United States for more than 4 years total since becoming a permanent resident or within the last 5 years (whichever is less), your reentry permit will be valid for 1 year from the date it is issued.
2. How to Renew Your Reentry Permit: Step-by-Step
Many U.S. green card holders are in situations where they must remain outside of the U.S. beyond the expiration date of their reentry permit.
Here are some common situations:
- Completing your education in another country
- Temporary work assignment outside of the U.S.
- Taking care of a relative in another country.
If you are in a situation where you must remain outside of the U.S. beyond the expiration of your reentry permit, you will likely need to apply for another reentry permit.
Technically, USCIS does not allow for a “renewal” of a reentry permit. The actual process requires you to apply for a new reentry permit.
How to Apply for a New Reentry Permit
- File Form I-131
- Attend Biometrics Appointment
1. File Form I-131
- The I-131 is the Application for Travel Document (This is the form that is filed with USCIS to apply for a reentry permit).
- You must be physically present in the United States when the Form I-131 is filed with USCIS.
- Make sure to return to the U.S. before your current reentry permit expires. Otherwise, you could face serious consequences when trying to reenter the country.
- There are several documents that should be included with your Form I-131.
2. Attend Biometrics Appointment
- To qualify for a new reentry permit, you will have to attend a mandatory biometrics appointment within the United States.
- The biometrics appointment is where your digital fingerprints are taken.
- You will have to attend this appointment even though you already submitted biometrics for your previous reentry permit.
- The biometrics appointment is usually scheduled by USCIS to take place about 2 months from the day you file your Form I-131.
- If you cannot stay in the U.S. from the date of filing your reentry permit application until the biometrics appointment, there are several options to consider including: 1) leave the U.S. once the Form I-131 is accepted by USCIS and return for the biometrics appointment; 2) request expedited processing of your reentry permit application; 3) attempt a walk-in biometrics appointment with your biometrics appointment notice in-hand.
- Here is a more detailed guide on overcoming common timing issues associated with reentry permit applications.
Requirements for Reentry Permit Renewal
- You must be a lawful permanent resident
- Your intent to depart the U.S. must be for a temporary period of time
- You must file a Form I-131 along with supporting documentation
- You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time your reentry permit application is filed and accepted by USCIS
- You must attend a biometrics appointment
3. Can I Apply for a Reentry Permit Renewal if My Current Reentry Permit is Still Valid?
Yes, you can apply for a new reentry permit while your current reentry permit is still valid. To be exact, you can apply for a new reentry permit “up to 60 days before the expiration date of the previously issued re-entry permit to ‘allow time for receipting of the application and issuance of the ASC appointment before adjudications.’” (AILA’s NSC Liaison Committee Practice Tips for I-131).
The reentry permit regulations clearly state that “an application for a reentry permit or refugee travel document will be denied if the applicant was previously issued a reentry permit or refugee travel document which is still valid, unless it was returned to USCIS or it is demonstrated that it was lost.” [8 CFR 223.2(c)1]
What this means is that if you are applying for a new reentry permit while your current reentry permit is still valid, you should include your current reentry permit with your application for the new reentry permit.
If you do not include your current valid reentry permit with your reentry permit application, this can be very problematic for your case. If the current reentry permit is not included in the filing, USCIS adjudicators are given instruction to issue a request for additional evidence (RFE) for you to return the reentry permit or explain the reason why you cannot return the reentry permit. The USCIS adjudicator is required to “resolve this matter satisfactorily before delivering the new permit.”
There is a limited exception to this general rule:
According to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center (NSC), if your application for a new reentry permit is filed with 30 days or less remaining on your current reentry permit, the application should be adjudicated without issuance of an RFE requesting the current reentry permit. It is unclear whether other Service Centers take this approach. (AILA’s NSC Liaison Committee Practice Tips for I-131).
What this means is that if your reentry permit application will be adjudicated at the Nebraska Service Center, and your current reentry permit is valid for 30 days or less (from the date of filing), then you do not need to include the current reentry permit with your new reentry permit application.
4. How Many Times Can I Apply for a New Reentry Permit?
- The regulations do not limit the number of times you can receive a reentry permit.
- So, technically, there is no set limit to the number of reentry permits you can receive.
- However, if you’ve been outside of the U.S. for more than 4 years total since become a permanent resident or within the last 5 years (whichever is less), then your reentry permit will only be valid for 1 year instead of 2 years. [8 CFR Section 223.2(c)(2)]
- Even though the regulations do not put a limit on the number of times you can receive a reentry permit, applying for multiple reentry permits can be problematic.
- As a reentry permit applicant, your intent to depart from the U.S. should be for a temporary period of time. The more reentry permits you receive, the more difficult it becomes to establish that your departure from the U.S. is truly “temporary.”
5. Tips for Success
1. Work with an Experienced Immigration Lawyer
- After getting approved for your first reentry permit, each subsequent reentry permit becomes increasingly more difficult to obtain.
- An experienced immigration lawyer can work with you to develop your application properly and to clearly explain the need for the reentry permit.
2. Include Proper Documentation with Your Application
- An experienced immigration lawyer can help you determine which documents to include.
- The appropriate documentation for your case will depend on your specific situation.
- Some general documents that should be included are: 1) copy of permanent resident card; 2) copy of photographic page of passport; 3) passport photos.
At this point, you should have a much better understanding of the reentry permit renewal process. Technically, a reentry permit is not renewed, instead you are required to apply for a new reentry permit.
To apply for a new reentry permit, you are required to file a Form I-131 with USCIS while you are physically present in the United States. You are then required to attend a biometrics appointment.
I know this is quite a bit of information to understand. If you have any questions, or if you need assistance with your reentry permit renewal, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I would be happy to help you!
- AILA’s NSC Liaison Committee Practice Tips for I-131