What is an I-131 Re-entry Permit?

A Re-entry Permit is designed to allow a Green Card holder or conditional permanent resident to apply for entry into the United States after returning from abroad during the permit’s valid period. This application is known as a Form I-131. You do not need to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate with a valid re-entry permit.

Usually, USCIS takes about three months to process a Form I-131 (the required Application for Travel Documents) and, when approved, re-entry permits are valid for two years in most circumstances. (If a permanent resident spends four years out of the past five abroad, there may only be a one year term granted.) During the term of the permit, you may exit and enter the U.S. multiple times. Call an Austin immigration lawyer for a free consultation and they will explain how this process works. Immigration attorneys in Austin are experienced in the Form I-131 process will handle everything for you. Although we are based in Austin, TX, we serve clients across the country and around the world.

Benefits of a Re-Entry Permit

The first benefit is that it allows U.S. permanent residents to re-enter the country after traveling abroad for a period of time longer than one year but no more than two years in duration. When Green Card holders travel abroad for longer than a year, they risk denial of admission into the U.S. on the grounds that they abandoned their permanent residence status. Luckily, a re-entry permit can solve this problem.

The second benefit of a re-entry permit is that it can serve as a passport for U.S. permanent residents if they don’t have a passport and cannot obtain one from their country of origin.

The only downside to a re-entry permit is that it will not help you maintain the continuous five year residency period required to become a U.S. citizen. If you spend more than 180 days abroad from the U.S., it will end the continuous residence period requirement necessary for the naturalization process, even if a re-entry permit is obtained.

Difference Between Advance Parole and a Re-Entry Permit?

Both advance parole and re-entry permit applicants must fill out Form I-131 (Application for Travel Documents) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, the two documents are slightly different. While advance parole is issued to aliens that do not have permanent resident status, a re-entry permit is issued only to lawful permanent residents. The two documents themselves look much different. An advance parole approval is one piece of paper with your photo on it, which tends to function like a visa to the U.S., and a re-entry permit looks just like a passport. This means that any aliens with advance parole approval still need their foreign passport to legally enter the U.S. Permanent residents with a re-entry permit do not need any foreign passport to re-enter the U.S. Also keep in mind the difference in their durations. Advance parole is valid for just one year, and a re-entry permit is valid for two years.

How Do You File a Form I-131?

For a re-entry permit, one must file Form I-131, as previously stated. The Application for Travel Documents has a filing fee of $445, which includes the biometric services fee. You’ll also need to turn in the following with your petition:

  • Your name and address;
  • A copy of your green card;
  • Two photos of you;
  • Your phone number;
  • Your Alien number.

Once completed, you will need to file your Form I-131 (Application for Travel Documents) by mail at the USCIS Nebraska Center.