A permanent resident (called lawful permanent resident or LPR) or conditional resident (CR) who has remained outside the United States for longer than one year, or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the United States and resume permanent residence. You can learn more about Returning Resident Visas on travel.state.gov.
U.S. Immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. Remaining outside the U.S. for more than 12 months may result in a loss of legal permanent resident status. Individuals holding USCIS re-entry permits may remain outside of the United States up to 24 months. For more details on applying for a reentry permit please visit the USCIS website.
A former immigrant who has lost U.S. resident status and desires to return to the United States must do so using a new immigrant visa based on either an approved immigrant petition or returning resident status.
- Option 1: A U.S. relative (spouse, parent, offspring or sibling) or U.S. employer may file an immigrant petition on behalf of the former immigrant. Information on the various types of immigrant and employment based petitions are contained elsewhere in this website.
- Option 2: The immigrant may apply for returning resident status. An application for returning resident status requires evidence of the applicant’s continuing, unbroken ties to the United States, evidence that the stay outside the United States was truly beyond the applicant’s control and evidence that the intent of the applicant was to always return to the United States.
To apply for a returning resident status (Application for Determining Returning Resident Status, Form DS-117), each applicant must pay the application fee, complete the Form DS-117 (PDF 56 KB), and appear at the Consulate for an interview. The fee is non-refundable. The applicant must provide evidence of his/her continuing ties to the U.S. Evidence may consist of continuous compliance with U.S. tax law, ownership of property and assets in the United States and maintenance of U.S. licenses and memberships. Having U.S. relatives, attending school overseas or stating the intent to return is generally insufficient. The applicant must also present evidence that the protracted stay abroad was beyond his/her control. The applicant will be interviewed and supporting documents will be reviewed. The applicant will be notified soon after the interview as to whether the application was granted or refused.
If the applicant is judged to qualify for returning resident status, he/she must then complete the entire immigrant visa process (including paying the immigrant visa fees, obtaining a medical exam, submitting all necessary police clearances and civil documents, and appearing for an immigrant visa interview.) If the applicant is judged not to qualify for returning resident status, he/she may opt to have an American citizen or LPR relative file a new immigrant visa petition on his/her behalf.
Individuals interested in applying for returning resident status should use the Visa Inquiry Form or send fax or mail to the Immigrant Visa Section to request an appointment and the related paperwork.
Note: Individuals contemplating whether to submit an application for returning resident status should carefully evaluate whether their circumstances meet the criteria outlined above. The application fee is non-refundable and the evaluation process is quite rigorous. It is also worthy to consider that approval of returning resident status does not guarantee issuance of a visa.
Last modified: April 10, 2017