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Immigration Rules and Laws #4: Returning Resident Visas

Returning Resident Visa

Immigration Rules and Laws: Returning Resident Visas

Returning resident visas are part of the broader United States immigration system. Many permanent and conditional residents of the United States leave the country for a wide range of reasons. They may head to another country for work, to handle family matters, or to take vacations.

While leaving is certainly allowed, if you remain outside of the U.S. past your re-entry permit validity period, you may not be able to return based solely on your current visa. If that’s the case, a returning resident visa is required, enabling you to re-enter the United States and re-establish your residency.

If you are curious about returning resident visas, including the applicable rules and laws regarding them, here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Returning Resident Visa?

A returning resident visa allows permanent residents and conditional residents who have been outside of the United States for extended periods to re-enter the country legally. When a resident leaves, re-entry on an existing visa is only allowed for a specific amount of time.

The length of time for re-entry can vary. If you’re relying solely on your green card, the time frame is usually one year. If you apply for a re-entry permit (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document) in advance, your re-entry rights are extended based on the date listed on the permit, usually covering a period of two years instead of one.

In either case, once the approved period passes, the resident’s re-entry rights essentially expire. Additionally, their residency status can be revoked.

A returning resident visa (SB-1) allows for the re-establishing of re-entry rights and residency. It’s mainly designed for residents who left the United States and, for reasons beyond their control, weren’t able to return before their re-entry rights expired.

Rules for Permanent Residents Who Obtained Their Status Based on Asylum

It’s important to note that rules regarding outside travel do vary for permanent residents who secured their residency status based on asylum requests. Asylees have to obtain a refugee travel document prior to leaving the United States. Usually, this involves filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, before you travel to secure re-entry rights.

Other travel rules also apply to asylees. As a result, it’s wise to review them carefully before planning any travel outside of the United States.

Applying for a Returning Resident Visa

If you need to apply for a returning resident visa, you’ll need to contact your closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before your trip back to the United States. Ideally, you want to reach out at least three months prior to your planned travel date. That way, there is sufficient time to process your visa request.

Before you head to the embassy or consulate, you’ll want to gather specific documentation to support your application. This includes:

  • Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident States
  • Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card
  • Current Re-Entry Permit (if available)
  • Dates of Travel Outside of the U.S. and Supporting Evidence (passport stamps, plane tickets, etc.)
  • Proof of Ties to the U.S. That Demonstrate an Intent to Return (evidence of family, economic, or social ties to individuals or entities within the U.S.)
  • Proof That the Extended Time Outside of the U.S. was Beyond Your Control

Once the information is gathered, a review process begins. An officer will examine your application and supporting documentation. The purpose is to determine if you meet the visa requirements.

After the decision is made, if you’re deemed eligible, you’ll receive further instructions for the rest of the process. This may include getting a medical examination and securing proof of any required vaccinations, as well as preparing for an interview and gathering additional documentation.

While the exact process may vary, you might need to:

  • Complete a Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application
  • Bring Your Passport
  • Have to Photographs That Meet the Requirements
  • Provide Additional Documentation as Requested

During this final part of the process, a full determination will be made. If approved, you’ll be able to secure the necessary visas to return to the United States and re-establish residency.

What Happens If You Aren’t Approved for a Returning Resident Visa?

If your application for a returning resident visa is denied, you may become ineligible for not just that visa but also certain non-immigrant visas. Often, if your goal is to return to the United States, you’ll have to reapply for an immigrant visa

If that is the case, you typically have to use the same type of immigrant visa that allowed you to establish residency previously. As a result, you’ll essentially restart that process, mainly relying on the same approach that was utilized before.

Do You Need an Interpreter or Translator to Help with the Returning Resident Visa Process?

If you need to navigate the returning resident visa process and would benefit from having the services of a professional interpreter or translator, Acutrans is here.

Acutrans provides individuals and organizations with dependable interpretation services – both in-person and remotely – offering language support in 200 languages. Acutrans can also prepare certified, notarized translations in just 24 hours.

If you are looking for translation, interpretation, or other types of language services for the visa process, the Acutrans team can provide a fast, reliable, and professional solution. Contact us for a free quote today.