If you have been issued a green card or you are a US lawful permanent resident (LPR), be vigilant of reentry permits or at least, know what it is. A reentry permit is a document applied for by a lawful permanent resident status holder to ask permission from the US government to stay outside of its borders longer than one year (usually up to two years) without violating LPR residency rules and suffering from the ignorance of the existence of the said rules.
As a LPR, you are expected to reside permanently in the United States. Travel abroad is allowed, but you can be deemed to have abandoned residency and eventually, your LPR status, if the stay abroad or absence in the US is more than 365 days (one year). In case you are planning to apply for citizenship after three or five years of being a LPR, you are expected to come back to the US before the expiration of the six-month period. If ”foreign” travels exceed six months, beware, the five- or three year term has to re-start.
The reentry permit is granted only for valid reasons: To wind down a business; to finish schooling (in both cases) prior to finally settling permanently in the US; to finalize sale of properties; procure for the estate planning closure of the family; and medical reasons.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates the applicant’s documents and decide whether to grant or deny the reentry permit. There is no guarantee that an application for a reentry permit will be granted. Violating the LPR residency rules will have adverse effects on maintaining your status as a green card holder and/or application for U.S. citizenship. A reentry permit may sound simple and routine but this non-complex concept can lead to a bright future or “missed fortune” in the United States.
Let’s consider the case of Estela, 20 years old, second-year nursing school student in her province. In 2005 she was admitted to the US as a LPR based on her U.S. citizen-father’s petition of a minor child. In 2007, she went back to the Philippines to finish her nursing degree. While she was there her Filipino biological mother became ill, and she failed to return to the US before the expiration of the first year. When she finished her nursing degree, one year and nine months had passed.
At the US port of entry, the immigration officer declined to admit her because she exceeded the one-year mark and did not have a reentry permit. Estela never heard of a ‘reentry permit, and so she did not apply for one. The result: lost green card status, and, yes, she can have her green back (barring factors that can disqualify) but the road to recovery is long and tedious, considering her age and other factors.
Another case is that of Domingo, a widower, supporting two children who are single and over 21, with a lucrative electronics business in his country. He was admitted to the US in 2005 based on a petition by a US-citizen daughter. Once a LPR, he petitions for the other children. But as the breadwinner and caregiver in his country, he could stay in the US only for two-three months every year, a period which, he said, is “just so as to comply with the ‘one-year rule.’ “ Unfortunately, on the 5th year (2014), the port of entry officer placed him in an interrogation room because of this “unlawful practice.’
Domingo admitted that because he has not been permanently staying in the US, he has “abandoned” his green card or LPR status. Right there and then, he is divested of his green-card status. His admission has dire consequences to his lawful permanent resident status as well as the petitions for his two children. Domingo violated the terms of his visa, a red mark that permanently stays on his record.
If his intention was to wind down the business in his country and transfer its management as he resettles permanently in the US, a routine application for a reentry permit would have “saved the day.”