Many permanent residents and conditional residents leave America for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include work, spending time with relatives, and vacations. These permanent residents (LPRs) and conditional residents (CR) need to be careful how long they stay outside the United States. If they stay more than a year or beyond their re-entry permit validity period, they will need to obtain a new immigrant visit in order to return. The COVID-19 pandemic is complicating the return timeline for many residents due to quarantines and general restrictions on reentry to America from certain countries that are considered high-risk for the disease.
According to the US State Department, the US visa laws do provide for a “returning resident special immigrant visa” for an LPR who stayed outside of America for more than one year – due to circumstances beyond their control.
The Returning Resident Visa is also called an SB-1 visa. It’s used if you’ve been outside America for more than one year, you don’t have a re-entry permit, or your re-entry permit date has expired. Generally, if you re-entry permits permit people with green cards (LPR status) to stay outside American for up to two years.
If you’ve been outside the US for less than one year, your Permanent Resident Card should allow you to reenter the US. LPRs and CRs, according to Stilt.com, who leave the US should obtain a re-entry permit through Form I-131.
To obtain the SB-1 visa, you need to submit the SB-1 from the country where you are located – normally, through the US embassy in that country. Applicants for the SB-1 visa will be interviewed, will need to have a medical exam, and will need to pay processing fees and medical fees. LPR applicants for SB-1 visas must show:
- You were an LPR when they left the US
- You intended to return to the US when you left and you didn’t “abandon” your status
- You’re not otherwise ineligible for a US visa
- You can provide evidence explaining your absence beyond the period permitted (one year unless you have a permit)