A Guide for Lawful Permanent Residents

  1. What is a Lawful Permanent Resident?
  2. Does an LPR have to live in the United States?
  3. How does a lawful permanent resident apply for a Reentry Permit?
  4. Does a Reentry Permit preserve physical presence and/or continuous resident requirement for Naturalization/Citizenship?
  5. What happens if an LPR has remained outside the U.S. for a period of one year or more without a Reentry Permit?
  6. Does an LPR need a U.S. address to apply for a Reentry Permit?
  7. How long can an LPR use a Reentry Permit?
  8. What do I need for an Reentry Permit?
  9. What is included in the I-131?
  10. How long does the LPR need to be in the U.S. when filing the I-131?
  11. What to expect after filing the I-131?
  12. Do LPR’s need to notify USCIS of any change of address?

What is a Lawful Permanent Resident?

Congratulations on being or becoming a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) of the U.S. The term LPR refers to a person who is an immigrant or who has a Permanent Resident Card (“I-551”), also known as a “green card.” A person with a green card is still an alien. A person with a green card is not a citizen and does not have the same rights as a citizen. A person with a green card is still subject to the Immigration and Nationality Act and can be deported for certain crimes and committing certain prohibited acts. A person with a green card is never allowed to vote in any local, state or federal election. A person with a green card must never claim to a U.S. citizen at any time for any reason. The penalties for unlawful voting or for making a false claim to U.S. citizenship are serious.

For purposes of employment, a person with a green card must be treated the same as any U.S. citizen and may not be discriminated against in hiring, promotion, retention, compensation or any other aspect of employment.

Does a LPR Have to Live in the United States?

As an LPR, you are required to maintain your primary residence in the United States. Of course, LPR’s can and do travel abroad but as a lawful permanent resident, it is important to mostly reside in the U.S. and to maintain strong ties to the U.S. such as living in the U.S., working in the U.S., maintaining property in the U.S., paying taxes in the U.S., keeping family in the U.S. and not staying out of the U.S. for extended periods. LPR’s who do not maintain their primary residence in the U.S. face the possibility of losing their green cards on the basis of abandonment.

Of course, it is common for LPR’s to travel out of the U.S. and to remain out of the U.S. for periods of months or longer for various acceptable reasons i.e. family, business, employment. When this happens, it is important to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer so as to reduce or limit any risks associated with a long-term absence from the U.S.

LPR’s should be mindful of the fact that they may be barred from returning to the U.S. as an LPR if they have been absent from the United States for a continuous period of one year or greater.  Additionally, even if the LPR has absences shorter than one year, an immigration officer can still challenge an LPR’s right to be readmitted as a permanent resident in certain circumstances (i.e. they have taken up residence in another country).

To reduce the likelihood that extended or regular absences could lead to such challenges, it is sometimes desirable for an LPR to apply for a Reentry Permit.

Issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”, formerly “INS”), the Reentry Permit serves as a travel document for the lawful permanent resident and expresses the LPR’s intent not to retain and not abandon their status as a permanent resident of the U.S.

How does a lawful permanent resident apply for a Reentry Permit?

An LPR can apply for a Reentry Permit by filing an Application for a Travel Document (“I-131”) with USCIS. Ideally, the I-131 should be filed prior to the LPR’s departure from the U.S. However, in some circumstances, it may be necessary to apply for the Reentry Permit after the person has left the U.S.

In that case, the LPR would need to return to the U.S. long enough to file the I-131 and to remain in the U.S. long enough to do their biometrics i.e. digital fingerprints and photographs at an Application Support Center.

Does a Reentry Permit preserve physical presence and/or continuous residence requirement for Naturalization/Citizenship?

No. While the Reentry Permit can facilitate readmission to the U.S. as an LPR, it does not serve to preserve either physical presence or continuous permanent residence for purposes of naturalization or citizenship.

In other words, while the Reentry Permit can help an LPR to preserve their immigration status following a long-term absence from the the U.S., such absences can still have a negative impact on eligibility for naturalization/citizenship.

What happens if an LPR has remained outside the U.S. for a period of one year or more without a Reentry Permit?

If an LPR has frequent extended absences from the U.S., or if the LPR has remained outside the U.S. for a period of one year or more, or if the LPR has established a residence in another country, then the LPR faces the possibility of losing the green card. In that situation, when the LPR is inspected by U.S. immigration officials at a land border, seaport, airport or Pre-Flight Inspections abroad, the immigration officer may challenge the person’s right to return as an LPR. In that situation, the immigration officer may try to induce the returning LPR to surrender the green card and voluntarily give up LPR status. Please note that the immigration officer is not legally allowed to revoke or take away LPR status. Only an Immigration Judge can do that. So, if the returning LPR believes that he/she should retain LPR status, it is necessary and appropriate to ask for a hearing before an Immigration Judge. If this happens, it is important to consult a qualified immigration attorney.

It is important to note that a Reentry Permit is not a guarantee of readmission and, even with a Reentry Permit, an immigration officer can still find that a returning LPR has abandoned his/her residence in the U.S.

Does an LPR need a U.S. address to apply for a Reentry Permit?

Yes, the LPR should provide a U.S. mailing address for the I-131.  If the LPR does not have or will not have a U.S. residence, he/she should use the address of a close friend or family member.  This will ensure that important notices such as the Biometric Appointment notice or any request for additional evidence or the notice of approval go to the correct address. If the LPR is represented by an attorney, he/she may use the attorney’s address for this purpose.

An LPR may also request that the Reentry Permit be sent to a U.S. Consulate or Department of  Homeland Security office abroad.

How long can an LPR use a Reentry Permit?

A Reentry Permit can be valid for up to two years. If the LPR has a continuing need to reside outside the U.S., it is possible to file an application to renew the Reentry Permit for an additional period of two years. If, due to very unusual circumstances, the LPR is still residing outside the U.S., it is possible to request a further extension of the Reentry Permit, but USCIS will limit the validity to one-year with the possibility of further one-year extensions. Though, there is no statutory maximum for the amount of time a person can reside abroad and retain LPR status.

Though, there is no statutory maximum for the amount of time a person can reside abroad and retain LPR status,USCIS retains the right to question the nature and extent of a person’s residence abroad and to issue a notice of abandonment of LPR status.

What do I need for a Reentry Permit?

The Application for a Reentry Permit requires the Form I-131 along with documents which show the LPR’s ties to the U.S., the reason for the planned absence from the U.S. and an expression of intent to return to the U.S. The package should also include evidence that the lawful permanent resident was in the U.S. at the time of filing the application since it is a statutory requirement.

Failure to provide such evidence could lead to a Request for Evidence for the same and/or an eventual denial.

What is included in the I-131?

The I-131 requires basic biographic information, address, date of birth, date the person became an LPR, the approximate length of time the LPR expects to reside outside the U.S., and whether they have filed a federal income tax return as a non-resident or if they have failed to file because they considered themselves non-residents.  Additionally, the I-131 should be supported by:

  • copy of front and back of lawful permanent resident’s permanent resident card
  • if renewing, original Reentry Permit (if it has not expired yet)
  •  evidence of physically presence in the U.S. at the time of filing
  • statement from LPR explaining temporary need to reside outside the U.S. and intent to resume (if employment-based, letter from employer)
  • evidence of LPR’s ties to U.S. such as deed/lease, bank statements, current auto/home insurance, tax returns, driver’s license, retirement accounts, ownership of assets, etc.

How long does the LPR need to be in the U.S. when filing the I-131?

The LPR must be in the U.S. at the time of filing the I-131. After the I-131 is filed, the LPR should plan to remain in the U.S. for at least one month to wait for “Biometrics”. This refers to digital fingerprints and photographs.  If the LPR has a compelling need to leave the U.S. before the date for the biometrics, then he/she can postpone the biometrics and reschedule for a date when he/she will be in the U.S. This should be done within 120 days (3 months).

If the biometrics are not completed within 120 days, the application will be considered abandoned and the LPR must restart the conprocess.

What to expect after filing the I-131?

  • Receipt Notice: After the I-131 is filed, the LPR will receive a Receipt Notice. This usually comes in about two weeks. The Receipt Notice serves as proof that the application has been filed, confirms payment of filing fees and assigns a case number. The Receipt Notice for the I-131 can sometimes be presented to immigration inspectors as evidence of compliance with procedures associated with long-term absence from the U.S. The Receipt Notice is also important for following up with USCIS on the status of the LPR and checking the online case status.
  • Biometrics Notice: After the I-131 is filed, USCIS will schedule the LPR for a Biometrics Appointment at the USCIS Field Office or Application Support Center serving their area of residence. At the Biometrics Appointment, the LPR will have digital photographs and fingerprints taken which are used for screening applicants.
  • Request for Evidence: If USCIS determines that the information/documentation submitted does not satisfy requirements, it can issue a Request for Evidence (“RFE”). The RFE will identify any missing documents or information they are seeking and a deadline for submitting. All requested information should be submitted at the same time. And USCIS rarely issues more than one RFE. Failure to respond to an RFE may result in denial of the application.
  • Decision: It may take months for USCIS to adjudicate the I-131. Once adjudicated and approved, USCIS will issue a Reentry Permit in the form of a small, passport-like booklet which can be presented to U.S. immigration inspectors upon readmission to the U.S.

    Do LPR’s need to notify USCIS of any change of address?

    Yes. All LPR’s must notify USCIS of any change of address. In fact, failure to notify USCIS of a change of address is still technically grounds for removal/deportation. The procedures use for notifying USCIS of any change of address depending on whether or not the LPR has any applications pending with USCIS.

    An LPR can change and/or update an address on any pending or recently approved applications and petitions using the Online Change of Address system. The online system will first prompt the LPR to complete Form AR-11. If the person has a pending application, after the LPR completes the AR-11, the system will direct the LPR to a second step for updating an address on any pending or recently-approved applications and petitions. For additional information on how to notify U.S. of a change of address, click here.