A permanent resident (called lawful permanent resident or LPR) or conditional resident (CR) who has remained outside the United States for more than one calendar year and who did not obtain a Reentry Permit from the USCIS prior to their trip abroad, are considered to have abandoned their Lawful Resident status. However, Permanent Resident Aliens who were unable to return to the United States for reasons beyond their control within one year after their departure or before expiration of their Reentry Permit(s), may be eligible for a special immigrant visa (i.e. the Returning Resident, SB1 visa). You can learn more about Returning Resident Visas on usvisas.state.gov.
Conditional Permanent Residents are not eligible to apply for Returning Resident status, even when the circumstances described above may apply. Usually, the petitioner must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and initiate a new immigrant visa process for the alien.
Exception for Military and U.S. Government Employees: The one-year time limit does not apply to the spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a civilian employee of the U.S. government who is stationed abroad pursuant to official orders. In these specific cases, the spouse and children are eligible to return to the United States if the following conditions are met:
- they can present a valid Alien Registration Card (Green Card);
- they can demonstrate unrelinquished residence in the U.S; and
- they are preceding, accompanying, or following to join the member or employee in the United States within four months after the return of said member or employee.
In order to facilitate boarding, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection recommends that these dependents obtain a boarding foil prior to their departure to the United States.
How do I apply for a Returning Resident status?
Please send an e-mail VisaTallinn@state.gov to schedule an appointment. At the time of your interview with a consular officer, they will review your documentary evidence to determine if you are eligible for Returning Resident status. Returning Resident status may be granted if the applicants can show that:
- they were lawful permanent residents when they departed from the United States;
- at the time of their departure from the United States, they intended to return to their domicile in the United States and they maintained this intent throughout their stay abroad;
- the stay abroad was protracted by reasons beyond their control and for which they were not responsible; and
- they are eligible for an immigrant visa in all other respects.
Those applying for Returning Resident status should obtain and provide the following documents to the consular officer at the time of their appointment:
- Form DS-117 Application to Determine Returning Resident Status;
- Photo ID (such as a passport, driving license, etc.);
- Evidence showing how they acquired U.S. legal permanent resident status (a copy of an immigrant visa, USCIS admission stamp, an adjustment of status approval notice, etc.);
- Evidence showing the date when they last departed from the United States (e-tickets, boarding passes, etc.);
- Evidence showing prior continuous residence in the United States (U.S. employment records, proof of children’s enrollment in a U.S. school, past U.S. income tax returns, property ownership in the United States, etc.);
- Evidence showing that they had a definite reason for a temporary travel abroad;
- Evidence showing that the extended stay abroad was for reasons beyond their control;
- Notarized English translations of all documents presented if the originals are in a language other than English;
- A non-refundable application fee of 180 USD. The fee is payable at the time of the appointment at the Consular Section in U.S. dollars or the equivalent in euros, in cash or by credit card.
What happens next?
When an Application to Determine Returning Resident Status is approved, the applicant will be instructed to prepare documents for their immigrant visa application, and will need to follow the same guidance as other immigrant visa applicants with locally filled and approved petitions.
Note! Applicants for Returning Resident status should initiate the process by applying well in advance of their intended travel (at least three months beforehand) to allow sufficient time for visa processing.
What if the consular officer establishes that I do not qualify for a returning resident status?
If your application for Returning Resident status is refused, you may still apply for admittance into the United States under a (employment-based or family-based) new immigrant visa petition, or might be able to qualify for non-immigrant status if you have established a permanent residence outside the United States to which you intend to return after a temporary stay in the United States. Please consult page Types of Nonimmigrant Visas.