The SB-1 Returning Resident Visa – 1 year out is all it takes!

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(Photo courtesy Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.)

Once an individual is granted permanent residence, they are allowed to travel in and out of the U.S. without any problem as long as they are not relinquishing permanent residence or residing abroad which may indicate abandoning Lawful Permanent Residence. Permanent residents who wish to reenter the U.S need to present their green card and passport from their country of citizenship to reenter, as long as the duration of the trip is less than 6 months. Within 6 months, people are generally considered to have taken a vacation or short trip abroad and are returning home to the U.S.

If the trip is longer than 6 months but shorter than 1 year, the person is considered to be seeking readmission and may be asked questions regarding the trip to see whether or not they have abandoned their residence while abroad. If the duration of the trip is more than one year, and the applicant knew before departing that they would be out of the United States for more than one year, then they may consider applying for a Re-entry permit which will allow them to stay out of the United States for up to two years with the ability to reenter multiple times if needed or just one time within the two year period. However, there are some people, who get caught outside the US and just cannot return before the 1 year is completed. These people generally had no idea that they would need to be out as long as they are or cannot help it to return with one year. Technically speaking, being outside the US for one year or more effectively abandons once green card status.

A permanent resident of the U.S. remained outside of the U.S. for more than one year without obtaining a reentry permit can either go through the entire green card process all over again or they may apply for a returning resident visa also known as a SB-1 visa. With an SB-1 Visa, issued by a consular post, the individual will be able to retain their residence and return to the United States as a Permanent Residence without interruption. To apply for SB-1 visa a returning resident must show proof of the resident’s continued unbroken ties to the U.S. and that the trip was extended as a result of events beyond their control. Some examples for reasons why an extended stay abroad was necessary are: illness, death, pregnancy, or permission was not granted to leave the foreign country.

A permanent resident who wants to enter the U.S. after staying abroad for an extended period of time can be eligible for a SB-1 visa if:

At the time of departure from the U.S. the individual was a lawful permanent resident;

When leaving the U.S., the individual did not leave with the intention of not coming back;

When an individual returns to the U.S. after an extended stay abroad, the extended stay was due to circumstances beyond their control and for which they are not responsible for; and

The individual is eligible for the SB-1 visa in all other aspects.

There are a few individuals who do not need the SB-1 visa even if they have been outside of the U.S for more than two years. They are spouses and children of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or civilian employees of the U.S. government stationed abroad. If an individual falls within those two categories, then they may use their Permanent Resident Card to enter the U.S. even if it expired.

The processing time for the SB-1 is usually quite quick and decision is given at interview. More recently, in a “covid world”, additional steps are required by consular posts which can be done before interview or after interview if the SB-1 is granted. Namely, a new DS-260 and new Police Clearance Certificates, and Possibly a new Immigration Medical. If an individual’s application for the SB-1 visa is denied, then they will not be allowed to enter the U.S. again without another valid visa.

For any questions or concerns, please contact an experienced immigration professional.

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