How to Get a Travel Document for Green Card Holder

Travel Document for Green Card Holder


As a US green card holder, you have the right to live in the United States and to travel outside of the US. However, certain types of travel can put your green card at risk. To protect yourself, you may need to get a travel document for green card holder known as a reentry permit. In this guide, I’ll discuss how to get a travel document for green card holder and everything else you need to know.


If you have any questions, email me directly at I’d be happy to help you get your travel document.




1. What is a Travel Document for Green Card Holder?

2. Why Do You Need a Travel Document for Green Card Holder?

3. What are the Requirements?

4. What Documents are Needed to Apply?

5. How Long is a Travel Document for Green Card Holder Valid For?

6. What is the Process of Getting a Travel Document for Green Card Holder?

7. Conclusion


1. What is a Travel Document for Green Card Holder (Reentry Permit)?


A travel document for green card holder is also called a reentry permit. A reentry permit is similar to a passport. It is a small booklet with an identification page as well as multiple other pages for entry/exit stamps and visas.


A reentry permit is specifically designed for US green card holders to protect their status. As we will discuss below, certain types of travel can put your status as a permanent resident at risk. For example, if you leave the United States for 6 months or longer, you risk abandoning your green card. A reentry permit creates a legal presumption that you do not intend to abandon your green card.



2. Why Do You Need a Travel Document for Green Card Holder?


There are 3 main reasons you would need a travel document as a green card holder:


  • Leaving the US for 6 Months or Longer/Frequent Travel
  • Leaving the US for a Year or Longer
  • Cannot Get a Passport from Country of Citizenship


Leaving the US for 6 Months or Longer/Frequent Travel


If you leave the US for 6 months or longer or if you travel outside of the US frequently, you are eligible to be questioned at the border by immigration officers upon your return to the US.


Immigration officers are checking to see if you’ve abandoned your status as a permanent resident. Keep in mind that you can abandon your status intentionally or unintentionally, based on your intentions when leaving the US.


A reentry permit can protect you by creating a legal presumption that you do not intend to abandon your status as a lawful permanent resident. A reentry permit lets immigration officers know that you intend to stay a US permanent resident.


Leaving the US for a Year or Longer


If you leave the US for a year or longer, your green card (Form I-551) is no longer valid as an entry document to reenter the United States.


If you do not have a reentry permit and you leave the US for a year or longer, you will need to apply and get approved for a special visa called a returning resident visa (SB-1 Visa) in order to get back into the country.


If you have a valid reentry permit, you can use your reentry permit to reenter the United States without getting a returning resident visa.


A reentry permit is usually valid for a period of 2 years from the date it is issued. As long as your reentry permit is valid, you can use it to reenter the country.


Cannot Get a Passport from Your Country of Citizenship


A reentry permit looks very much like a passport. It is a small booklet, it has an I.D. page with your picture, and it has blank pages for stamps.


If you are unable to get a passport from your country of citizenship, many countries allow you to use your reentry permit as a passport. This means that you can get stamps in your reentry permit, just as you would in a passport.


3. What are the Requirements?


There are 5 main requirements to get a travel document for green card holder (reentry permit):


  • You must be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) or a conditional lawful permanent resident (conditional green card holder).
  • You must have the intention to leave the United States temporarily.
  • You must file a Form I-131 and prove supporting documents (your immigration lawyer can file this for you).
  • Your Form I-131 must be filed while you are physically present in the United States.
  • You must attend a biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment.


4. What Documents are Needed to Apply?


The specific documents that you will need to submit with your reentry permit application will depend on your particular case.


With that disclaimer, here are some documents you should expect to include with your reentry permit application:


  • Copy of your permanent resident card (green card)
  • Copy of the photo page of your passport
  • 2 Passport Photos
  • Any previously issued reentry permits
  • Some type of evidence of your ties to the United States (such as a driver’s license, utility bills, etc.)


5. How Long is a Travel Document for Green Card Holder Valid For?


A reentry permit is usually valid for 2 years from the date it is issued (not from the date you file your application.


However, there are certain reasons why your reentry permit can be valid for less than 2 years:


  • Conditional Permanent Resident: If you are a conditional lawful permanent resident, your reentry permit cannot be valid for longer than your status as a conditional lawful permanent resident. So such a case, your reentry permit may be valid for less than 2 years.


  • Extended Absences: If since becoming a permanent resident, or during the last 5 years (whichever is less), you have been outside of the US for more than 4 years total, then your reentry permit is limited to 1 year (instead of 2).


6. What is the Process of Getting a Travel Document for Green Card Holder?


Getting a travel document for green card holder is a 3-step process:


  1. Hire an Immigration Lawyer
  2. File Form I-131
  3. Attend Your Biometrics (Fingerprinting) Appointment


Hire an Immigration Lawyer


The first step to getting your reentry permit is to hire an immigration lawyer to help you throughout the process. Although it is not required to have an immigration lawyer, immigration forms can be complicated and confusing. Filing your reentry permit application on your own can lead to mistakes that can delay the entire process, or even worse, cause your reentry permit application to be rejected.


Your immigration lawyer can review your situation to first make sure that a reentry permit is the appropriate option for you. If it is, your immigration lawyer can prepare and plan a strategy for when to file your application and which documents to include with your case.


Another really important way an immigration lawyer can help you is regarding the timing of your case. With reentry permits, timing is highly important. You are required to be in the US during certain key points throughout the reentry permit process. Your immigration lawyer can plan and strategize with you to make the process go smoothly.


File Form I-131


The next step is to file the Form I-131. The Form I-131 is the application for your travel document. It must be filed while you are physically present in the United States.


Along with the Form I-131, you should submit all necessary supporting documentation for your application.


In certain situations, you can request expedited processing to speed-up the processing of your case so that you can attend your biometrics appointment sooner.


Attend Your Biometrics (Fingerprinting) Appointment


About a month after your reentry permit application is filed, you will attend an appointment to get your digital fingerprint taken. This is the final step of the reentry permit process. Your biometrics appointment will be scheduled at a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) based on your US address.


If the scheduled time doesn’t work for you, there are multiple options available:


  • You can reschedule the appointment
  • You can attempt to do a walk-in appointment
  • You can leave the US after filing the reentry permit application and then return to attend your biometrics appointment
  • In very rare circumstances, you may be able to have your biometrics taken at a USCIS office outside of the US.


After your biometrics appointment, it will take about another 2 months for your reentry permit to be issued. Once issued, your immigration lawyer can securely send it to you. So if you are in a hurry to leave the US, you can leave once your biometrics appointment is finished.


7. Conclusion


As a US green card holder, you have the right to live in the US and travel outside of the US. However, certain types of travel can put your green card at risk. That is why, if you plan to leave the US for 6 months or longer, or if you travel frequently, you should strongly consider getting a travel document for green card holder (also called a reentry permit).


A reentry permit can help you by creating a legal presumption that you intend to stay a US permanent resident. A valid reentry permit can also be used to reenter the US after being outside of the US for a year or longer.


If you need help getting your reentry permit, or if you have any questions, please feel free to email me directly at








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Michael Ashoori Headshot

Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.