For Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) planning to travel outside of the United States for an extended period of time (more than one year), it is important to obtain a reentry permit prior to travel. Applying for a reentry permit before leaving the U.S. establishes that the LPR did not intend to abandon his or her permanent resident status in the U.S. and allows him or her to reenter the country without applying for a returning resident visa. To apply for a reentry permit, an LPR should file a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with USCIS approximately six months prior to the intended date of travel. It is important that the applicant file his or her I-131 in advance, as each applicant must attend a scheduled appointment at an Application Support Center in the U.S. to complete his or her biometrics. This part of the application process cannot be completed abroad, and failure to appear could result in a denial of the application.
In the event that an LPR loses his or her valid, unexpired reentry permit, a duplicate cannot be issued. The LPR must file another I-131 to apply for a new permit. In order to prevent fraud, the applicant must present evidence verifying the loss of the original reentry permit (e.g. a police report). This process, however, does not apply to LPRs abroad, as the I-131 process cannot be completed outside of the country. The following are options to be considered by LPRs who have lost their reentry permit while abroad.
The first option available to LPRs who have lost their reentry permit while abroad is to return to the United States as soon as possible. A person with LPR status in the U.S. may travel abroad and return to the U.S. with a valid I-551, Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”). No further documentation is needed, as long as the period of travel does not exceed one year. This is the best option for those with the ability to return within a year of the date of departure.
If it is not possible for the LPR to return to the U.S. within a year, (s)he must file a Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status. This form, filed with the Department of State, allows LPRs to return to the U.S. after absences of greater than one year, if they can show their intention to maintain their permanent resident status while abroad. As with the filing of an I-131, it is to the applicant’s advantage to show that (s)he possessed a valid reentry permit, and that it was lost, as this will show the applicant’s intent to maintain status.
Summary: In the event that an LPR misplaces his or her reentry permit while inside the United States, (s)he should file a Form I-131 to replace it. If the LPR is outside the U.S. at the time the document is lost, (s)he should try to return before the one year anniversary of his or her departure. If this is not an option, (s)he must file a DS-117 to apply for a returning resident visa.