November 11, 2011 § 2 Comments
US Lawful permanent residents (LPR) or Conditional residents (CR) who stayed abroad for more than a year, or stayed beyond the validity period of the Re-entry Permit are required to get a new immigrant visa to enter the US to continue their permanent residence. If you are green card holder and had to remain outside the US due to inevitable circumstances beyond your control, you can be issued a Returning resident special immigrant visa. If you are unable to get back to the US within the one year validity period of your green card or the two years validity of a Re-entry Permit, you can still qualify for a return visa. You can apply at the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa.
If the US Consulate approves your return visa application, there is no need for an immigrant visa petition to be filed for you. You will have to attend interviews for your application for returning resident status and for the immigrant visa as well. You are required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and attend a medical examination. You have to pay both the visa processing fees and medical fees too.
If you are a member of the US Armed Forces or a civilian employee of the US Government stationed abroad on official orders, your spouse and children can use their green card to enter the US even if it has expired. They need not get a return visa (SB-1) as long as they have not abandoned their green card status and their spouse or parent is returning to the US.
To become eligible for a return visa, you will have to prove that you were in lawful permanent resident status at the time of leaving the US and left with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention. You also have to prove that you are getting back to the US from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was lengthened, this was due to unavoidable circumstances beyond your control for which you were not responsible.
You should submit a completed Form DS-117 (Application to establish Returning Resident Status) to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. In addition you have to submit your Permanent Resident Card and Re-entry Permit (if available). You should also submit certain supporting documents. At the Consulate, an officer will review your application and supporting documents to check if you meet the criteria for SB-1 status. Should you meet, you must qualify for the immigrant visa in all other respects to get a SB-1 visa.
The US Consulate will detail you with instructions regarding further processing of your SB-1 visa and these will differ from each Embassy or Consulate. After processing if the consular officer finds that you do not meet the criteria for a SB-1 visa for reasons that you have abandoned your residence in the US, it may or may not be possible for you to get a non immigrant visa depending on whether you have established a residence abroad. If you are not able to furnish sufficient and convincing evidence of compelling ties abroad, then you have to apply for an immigrant visa on the same basis and under the same classification through which you entered before.