Re-entry Permit FAQ
Updated on 10/21/2023
Question: Who needs to apply for re-entry permit?
If a lawful preeminent resident (green card holder) is expected to stay outside the United States continuously for more than 6 months, or the cumulative time outside the United States in the last one or two years exceeds 80%, or the last entry is warned by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for too much time out of the country, he or she had better apply for re-entry permit.
Question: How to apply for re-entry permit?
Step 1: Mail application to USCIS
Mail the application package to the USCIS Lockbox as required. The application package includes a completed and signed I-131 application form, supporting documents and the filing fee ($660 or $575, depending on age). Applicants will receive a paper I-797 receipt notice (I-797C Notice of Action) from USCIS within 2-3 weeks after mailing the application.
Step 2: Applicant appears at the biometrics appointment
About 3-5 weeks after the application is mailed out, the applicant will receive a paper I-797 biometrics appointment notice from USCIS. Applicant needs to go to the Application Support Center (ASC) to appear at the biometrics appointment. The notice clearly tells the applicant the address and date & time of the biometrics appointment. The appointment date is generally about 10-14 days after receiving this notice.
Learn more about biometrics appointment in our article Biometrics Appointment FAQ.
If the applicant has ever taken the biometrics appointment at USCIS in the last several years, most likely they will receive a letter from USCIS indicating that USCIS may reuse their biometrics information in the system, thus no biometrics appointment will be scheduled.
Step 3: Receive a re-entry permit
After fingerprinting, generally USCIS will adjudicate the re-entry permit application within 11-15 months. If the re-entry permit application gets approved, applicant will receive an I-797 approval notice and a re-entry permit (see sample below) in separate mails. If the re-entry permit application gets denied, the applicant can always file a re-entry permit application again to start over. However, it is advisable to consult an immigration attorney before re-filing.
Question: Can people apply for re-entry permit outside the United States?
No. Specifically, the applicant can prepare the application documents abroad, but the applicant must be physically inside the United States on the day that USCIS receives the re-entry permit application.
Question: If a family applies for re-entry permit at the same time, mail each application separately or together?
Mail together. The method is that each applicant’s complete set of application documents is placed in separate envelopes, and then put them into a large envelope and mail to USCIS together.
Question: Can the applicant leave the U.S. immediately after USCIS receives the re-entry permit application?
Question: After receiving the biometrics appointment notice, can the applicant appear at the biometrics appointment earlier than the appointment date (earlier walk-in)?
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the answer should be no.
During the non-pandemic period, if the applicant has a special or emergency situation and is unable to appear at the biometrics appointment as scheduled, the applicant can try to appear earlier (“walk in”). Nevertheless, it is advisable to bring with relevant documents such as air tickets to prove the special or emergency situation. It is suggested to do walk in between 1:00-3:00 pm, because in general, it is not very busy in the afternoon, so the staff is more accommodating.
Question: Must the applicant go to the ASC specified on the biometrics appointment notice?
Question: If the applicant plans to go to another ASC, should he or she still follow the date on the biometrics appointment notice?
In general, yes. Unless the applicant has a special or emergency situation that he or she must finish the biometrics appointment earlier than the scheduled date. In this case, the applicant can try walk in, but it is recommended to bring with relevant documents such as air tickets to prove the special or emergency situation.
Question: Is it possible to reschedule the date of biometrics appointment?
Yes, there is instruction to reschedule on the biometrics appointment notice.
Question: What if the applicant missed the biometrics appointment date?
If USCIS has not yet denied the application, complete the biometrics appointment as soon as possible. Generally, the application will not be denied just because the applicant appeared at the biometrics appointment at a later date. Nonetheless, it is highly recommended to complete the biometrics appointment on time.
Question: Can the applicant leave the U.S. immediately after finishing the biometrics appointment?
Question: Can the applicant expedite the re-entry permit application?
Because the applicant can leave the U.S. immediately after USCIS receives the re-entry permit application, and return to the U.S. to finish the biometrics appointment later on and then leave the U.S. immediately again, it is meaningless to expedite the application in the practice.
Question: How long is the re-entry permit valid for?
For 10-year green card holders, in the last 5 years preceding the filing of the re-entry permit application or from the date of becoming a green card holder to the date of filing of the re-entry permit application (whichever is shorter), the cumulative time they spent outside the United States does not exceed 4 years, they will get a re-entry permit valid for 2 years. If more than 4 years, they will get a re-entry permit valid for 1 year.
For 2-year temporary green card holders, the expiration date of the re-entry permit is equivalent to the expiration date of the green card. For applicants whose petitions to remove conditions on the 2-year green card are still pending with USCIS, the expiration date of the re-entry permit is equivalent to the expiration date as specified in their I-797 extension letter or I-551 temporary green card stamp on their passport.
Question: Must the applicant return to the U.S. before the expiration date of the re-entry permit?
It is highly recommended for the applicant to return the U.S. before the expiration date of the re-entry permit. When re-entering, present the re-entry permit, passport and green card to the CBP officer.
Question: Can the applicant re-enter the U.S. multiple times during the validity period of the re-entry permit?
Question: Is there a limit on the number of times people can apply for re-entry permit?
There is no limit on how many times people can apply for re-entry permit. In other words, people can apply for new re-entry permit if the existing re-entry permit is about to expire or has expired. The steps for each application are the same as the first application. However, USCIS frequently updates the application form, application mailing address and application fee. As such it is recommended to verify the latest application requirements for each application.
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