When To Apply For Re-Entry Permit As A Permanent Resident
Under normal circumstances, most Lawful Permanent residents are able to travel outside of the US and return without any problems. There are very few circumstances when a Re-entry permit will be required for a LPR (lawful Permanent Resident). First, one should apply for Re-entry permit if his trip abroad would last longer than a year. Second, if he/she is believed to take up residency in a different than USA country.
This second instance is the most concerning, as technically you are considered abandoning the US as soon as you step foot of US “Soil” or territories. While sometimes a person does not plan abandoning their LPR status, sometimes life happens: a family member falls ill, one needs medical attention, etc. Medical problems are the most common cause of being charged with abandonment of LPR status, as horrible as it sounds (and it is). Without a Re-entry permit in this situation one may have to apply for permanent resident status all over again and those who have been successful with adjusting their status surely can agree that they would not want to go through the process again as only application fees to the government would cost around $1500...
To obtain a Re-entry permit, one should submit I-131 application in the United States. It is impossible to submit this application overseas. After that, a person has to comply with bio-metrics requirements. It is essential that one has his/her bio-metrics taken in the US before departure. If a person leaves without going through the fingerprinting, his/her application is likely to be considered abandoned and Re-entry permit would not be issued causing additional problems.
Recently, the US government allowed fingerprinting for Re-entry permits overseas. It is allowed in very limited cases and in each case attempts to comply with the bio-metric requirements in the US shall be presented. Also, not all countries have capacity to administrate the bio-metrics capture in their consulates, so one should think carefully before he/she leaves the country for a prolonged period of time.
The good news is that the Re-entry document itself may be mailed to a foreign address or to a US consulate in a foreign country. It means, that one in a hurry but who complied with the bio-metrics, may leave the country and wait overseas for the document to arrive.
What happens if one was abroad for over a year and still possess a valid green card and was able to board a plane and now is at the US border, let’s say in JFK. In this situation, especially recently, a CBP officer is likely to inform the green card holder that he would be placed in removal proceedings, the green card would be taken away but the person will be paroled into the US to appear before an Immigration Judge.
The bottom line: there are solutions for almost all situations if one thinks ahead.