What is a reentry permit?
A reentry permit is a travel document that allows lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to enter the U.S. after an extended period of time spent abroad.
A reentry permit allows green card holders to travel outside the U.S. for a specific period without jeopardizing their status.
Green card holders are generally required to reside in the U.S. to maintain their permanent resident status, and prolonged absences may lead to the presumption that they have abandoned their residency.
A reentry permit serves as evidence that a green card holder did not intend to abandon their permanent resident status while temporarily residing abroad.
It is particularly useful for individuals who need to travel for extended periods due to work, family obligations, or other reasons.
Here are some key points about reentry permits:
- Application Process: To obtain a reentry permit, a green card holder must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the USCIS. You must be physically present in the U.S. when you apply for a reentry permit and must attend the scheduled USCIS biometrics appointment.
- Validity Period: A reentry permit is usually valid for up to two years. However, if you have been outside the U.S. for more than 4 of the last 5 years since obtaining permanent residence, the reentry permit will be valid for 1 year only (with some exceptions).
- Use and Return: Green card holders can use the reentry permit to re-enter the U.S. during its validity period. It’s important to return to the U.S. before the permit expires.
- Continuous Residence: While a reentry permit allows for extended travel outside the U.S., it does not change the continuous residence requirement. Breaking the continuous residence might make you ineligible for U.S. citizenship application (naturalization). You can file Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes to avoid that.
Who is eligible to apply for a reentry permit?
You must meet the following eligibility requirements to apply for a reentry permit (Form I-131):
- Lawful Permanent Residents: You must be a lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident.
- Physical Presence in the U.S. You must be physically present in the U.S. when you file Form I-131.
- Biometrics: You must complete the biometrics appointment before you leave the U.S. Typically, biometrics appointments are scheduled 1-2 months after Form I-131 is filed.
Who is not eligible to apply for a reentry permit?
The following individuals are not allowed to apply for a reentry permit:
- You have already been issued a re-entry permit and it’s still valid (unless it was returned to USCIS or lost);
- The Federal Register notice prohibits issuance of a reentry permit for travel to the area where the applicant intends to go
How to apply for a reentry permit online
The process of applying for a reentry permit (Form I-131) online involves the following steps:
Step 1. Create an online USCIS account if you do not have one.
Step 2. From the “My account” dropdown menu, select “File a form online”. Choose “Form I-131”.
Step 3. Carefully answer all of the questions and upload scanned copies of the documents requested. See the checklist of required documents below.
Step 4. Review your answers, make sure that all the requested documents are uploaded and submit the application. You will pay the filing fee online using a credit card.
Step 5. Download the Form I-131 receipt notice from “Your cases” – “Documents” – “USCIS Notices”. Hard copy notice will arrive by mail in a couple of weeks.
Step 6. Wait for USCIS processing: you can track the status of your case in your online account. If USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE), you can upload your request to RFE directly to your online account.
Step 7. If approved, you will have access to approval notice in your online account. The original reentry permit will arrive by mail.
Step 8. Carry this document with you when you enter the U.S. after a long-term overseas trip. Presenting a reentry permit is essential for your admission to the U.S.
How to apply for a reentry permit by mail
The process of applying for a reentry permit (Form I-131) by mail involves the following steps:
Step 1. Download the Form I-131:
- Obtain the latest edition of Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, from the USCIS website.
- USCIS will reject any outdated editions of Form I-131
Step 2. Gather Supporting Documents:
- Collect all the necessary supporting documents (see the checklist below). Unless directed otherwise, submit only photocopies of the documents.
Step 3. Complete the Form:
- Fill out the form accurately and completely. Sign and date the form in ink
- USCIS does not accept computer-generated or stamped signatures
- Fill out and submit Form G-1145 to receive an electronic notification (text message or email) containing USCIS receipt number
- Check out the Form I-131 Instructions, How to Fill Out
Step 4. Filing fee payment:
- Check the USCIS website for the most current filing fee
- Acceptable forms of payment include: money order, personal check, cashier’s check or credit card payment (fill out Form G-1450)
- If paying by check, the check must be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Step 5. Mail the Application:
- Once the form is completed and the supporting documents are gathered, filing fee payment is submitted, mail the entire package to the correct filing address (“Where to File” section).
- It’s recommended to mail the application via express mail with a tracking number
Step 6. Check Application Status:
- If you submitted Form G-1145 with your application, 1 week after the submission you will receive a text message or email from USCIS with your Form I-131 receipt notice. Check your spam folder.
- USCIS will mail the receipt notice 2-3 weeks after the submission date
- You can track the status of your application online by entering the Form I-131 receipt number
Step 7. Wait for Processing:
- USCIS will process your application, and if additional information or document is needed, an RFE notice will be mailed to you. Once processed, you will receive a decision on your application by mail.
- The original reentry permit will arrive by mail.
Step 8. Re-enter the United States:
- Use the reentry permit to return to the U.S. before its expiration date. Keep in mind that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the port of entry will determine your admissibility.
Reentry permit filing fees
The filing fee for a reentry permit (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document) depends on the applicant’s age:
|13 or younger
|14 to 79
|80 or older
If applying for a reentry permit online, the filing fee can be paid online using a credit or debit card.
If submitting a reentry permit application by mail, acceptable forms of payment include:
- Money order
- Personal check
- Cashier’s check, or
- Credit card payment (for credit card payments, fill out Form G-1450)
USCIS fees are subject to change, check the latest Form I-131 filing fee on the USCIS website.
Reentry permit checklist of required documents
The following documents must be submitted with your reentry permit application (submit photocopies only):
Examples of acceptable documents
|Completed and signed Form I-131
|G-1145 form (optional)
|Official photo ID document
|An official photo ID document showing your photo, name and date of birth (front and back of ID).
Submit a photocopy of the following documents that clearly shows your face:
|Proof of permanent residency
|At least one of the following documents:
How long will a reentry permit be valid for?
If approved, a reentry permit will be valid for 2 years. Exceptions:
- If you have been outside the U.S. for more than 4 of the last 5 years since becoming a lawful permanent resident, the permit will be limited to 1 year, except green card holders who are traveling abroad on the U.S. government orders, employed by international organizations, or professional athletes
- If you are a conditional green card holder, the reentry permit will be valid until the date you must file Form I-751 (90 days before the expiration date of a conditional green card)
Once issued, a reentry permit cannot be extended.
Reentry permit processing times
According to the official USCIS processing times published on their website, it can take about 17.5 months for a reentry permit to be issued.
Processing times can vary based on factors such as complexity of the case, whether a Request for Evidence (RFE) is issued or not, and the workload at the specific USCIS service center.
For the most accurate and up-to-date information on Form I-131 processing times, you can visit the USCIS Processing Times page, choose “Form I-131”, choose “Reentry permit” and select your service center.
The service center handling your application can be found in the lower left corner of Form I-131 receipt notice.
You cannot choose the USCIS service center that will process your application.
Can I travel outside the U.S. before a reentry permit is approved?
You can travel outside the U.S. after you properly filed Form I-131 and attended the scheduled biometrics appointment but before a reentry permit is issued.
A reentry permit can be sent to a U.S. Embassy, US Consulate, or DHS office abroad for you to pick it up. You must select this option on Form I-131.
Keep in mind that it can take a significant period of time for USCIS to issue a reentry permit (up to 17.5 months according to USCIS data).
You must carry a reentry permit when you enter the U.S. after a long-term overseas trip. Failure to obtain a reentry permit might result in CBP finding that you have abandoned your permanent resident status.