Green Card and Travel Outside the United States:
Documents, Issues, and Assistance for US Reentry
- Travel Outside the US for Less Than a Year: Use Your Green Card to Reenter
- Green Card Holder Traveling Outside the US for 1-2 Years: Reentry Permit
- Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes
- Returning Resident SB-1 Visa: Reasons Beyond Your Control
- Travel Documents for Entry into Foreign Countries
- HELP! with Green Card & Travel Outside the US
Travel Outside the US for Less Than a Year: Use Your Green Card to Reenter
If you are a Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident, immigrant) returning from travel outside the US (a visit abroad) of less than a year, you may apply for readmission by presenting your Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) to the US immigration authorities at a port of entry.
The one-year time limitation does not apply to the wife, husband, or child of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a civilian employee of the U.S. Government stationed abroad pursuant to official orders. In this case, the wife, husband, or child must present the Green Card, not have relinquished residence, and be preceding or accompanying the member or employee, or be following to join the member or employee in the United States within four months of the return of the member or employee.
Green Card Holder Traveling Outside the US for 1-2 Years: Reentry Permit
If you are a Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident) and wish to travel or remain outside the United States for more than one year, but less than two, you require a US Reentry Permit. A Reentry Permit is not required for travel (a trip) that is shorter than one year. Note that an absence of more than one year will break the period of continuous residence required to become a citizen, even if a Reentry Permit is issued -- see Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes below. A Reentry Permit is also issued to Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents) who want to travel outside the United States, but cannot get a national passport from their country of nationality. A US Reentry Permit is valid for two years and may not be extended.
An Reentry Permit application (USCIS Form I-131, Application for Travel Document), along with the supporting documentation and fees, should be submitted while in the United States, at least 30 days prior to your proposed date of travel departure, to the appropriate address in the form instructions. If you think you may have to leave the United States (or be outside the US) before the Reentry Permit is received, you may have it sent to a U.S. Consulate or USCIS office overseas for pick up. There is a place on Form I-131 to furnish the information necessary to receive the Reentry Permit outside of the United States. However, even though you may receive the Reentry Permit overseas, the application must be submitted while you are still in the United States.
Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes
A Reentry Permit does not preserve residence of a Green Card holder for naturalization purposes. In this case, a Green Card holder should file USCIS Form N-470 (Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes) with USCIS prior to departure for travel outside the United States. This form is for Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents) who must leave the United States (travel outside the US) for certain employment purposes and wish to preserve their Green Card (immigrant) status in order to pursue naturalization. Further information may be obtained from the USCIS office having jurisdiction over your place of residence in the United States.
Returning Resident SB-1 Visa: Reasons Beyond Your Control
If you are a Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident) and you are unable to return to the United States within the one-year travel validity period of a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card), or the two-year travel validity of a Reentry Permit, you may apply to the nearest U.S. consular office for a special immigrant Returning Resident SB-1 Visa. To qualify for this status, you must show that:
- You were a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) when you departed the United States;
- When you departed, you intended to return to the United States and you have maintained this intent;
- You are returning from a temporary visit (travel) abroad and, if the stay was protracted, that it was caused by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible; and
- You are eligible for the immigrant visa in all other respects.
If you wish to apply for a Returning Resident SB-1 Visa, you should contact the nearest consular office well in advance of you intended travel back to the US (at least three months in advance, if possible) to permit sufficient time for visa processing.
If the returning Resident SB-1 Visa is refused on the grounds that you have given up your residence in the United States, it may or may not be possible to obtain a nonimmigrant visa (US Visa), depending on whether you have established a residence abroad to which you will return. If you cannot submit convincing evidence of compelling ties abroad, you may have to apply for an immigrant visa (Green Card) on the same basis by which you immigrated originally, if that is possible.
Travel Documents for Entry into Foreign Countries
Travel documents required for entry into foreign countries come within the jurisdiction of the foreign government concerned. Information on such matters should be requested from the representatives of those countries in the United States. For a list, see Foreign Embassies & Consulates in the USA.
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- For assistance within the U.S., contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office or call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283.
- For assistance outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
- You may also want to seek the advice of an immigration attorney (this link will help you find the right lawyer for your case), or an immigrant assistance organization. A list of accredited organizations and individuals is maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which also maintains a list of free legal service providers.