According to the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual a lawful permanent resident that has remained outside the U.S. for more than one year may be eligible for returning resident status. To qualify for such status, the LPR must demonstrate to the consular officer that: (1) at the time of departure, the LPR intended to return to an unrelinquished residence in the States; and (2) his or her reasons for remaining abroad were beyond his or her control. See 9 FAM 42.22 N1.1.
An LPR that has remained outside of the United States for longer than a year without obtaining a reentry permit (valid for two years) may apply for a Special Immigrant Returning Resident Visa (SB-1). To do this the applicant must submit a Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, along with available evidence of permanent residence within the United States, to the U.S. Consulate nearest his or her place of residence abroad. Acceptable forms of evidentiary support may include, among other things: evidence that the extended visit abroad was caused by some unforeseen circumstance; evidence of having filed U.S. income taxes within the last year; and evidence of property ownership within the United States. See 9 FAM 42.22 N1.3. After filing his or her questionnaire, the applicant must then submit to a personal interview with a consular officer, in order to determine whether or not (s)he is eligible for returning resident status. Should the consular officer determine that the applicant has met all of the requirements to qualify as a returning resident, the LPR must then submit an application for a SB-1 IV, Returning Resident Visa. See 9 FAM 42.22 N1(i).
Any LPR who wishes to reenter the United States after the expiration of his or her Permanent Resident Card, and an extended absence of longer than one year must obtain a SB-1 IV, after having shown him or herself to qualify for returning resident status through the Department of State’s consular process.