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Returning Resident Visas (SB-1)
Immigrant visas

A permanent resident (called lawful permanent resident or LPR) or conditional resident (CR) who has remained outside the United States for longer than one year, or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the United States and resume permanent residence.  A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa to an LPR who remained outside the United States due to circumstances beyond their control.  If you are an LPR unable to return to the United States within the travel validity period of the green card (1 year) or the validity of the Re-entry Permit (2 years), you may be eligible and can apply at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa. The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate to a consular officer that their protracted stay outside of the United States was for reasons beyond their control.

If your application for returning resident status is approved, this eliminates the requirement that an immigrant visa petition be filed on your behalf with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  You will need to be interviewed for both your application for returning resident status, and usually later for the immigrant visa.  An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and have a medical examination.  Therefore, this involves paying both visa processing fees and medical fees.

Qualifications for Returning Resident Status

Under provisions of U.S. Immigration law, to qualify for returning resident status, you will need to prove to the Consular Officer that you:

  • Had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departure from the United States.
  • Departed from the United States with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention.
  • Are returning to the United States from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.

Spouse or Child of a Member of the U.S. Armed Forces or Civilian Employee of the U.S. Government Stationed Abroad – Please review the exemption for the spouse or child of a military member

Military Family Members Traveling to United States on Expired Permanent Resident Card (Green Cards) I-551

A noncitizen spouse or minor child, previously admitted to the United States as an immigrant, may be admitted to the United States even if he/she is in possession of an expired Green Card, if he/she is the spouse or minor child of a U.S. military service member or of a direct hire U.S. Government Civilian employee who has been overseas on U.S. Government orders.

Please read the State Department Memo (PDF 96KB) for details. Be sure to print out a copy of this letter and carry it with you when entering the United States.

Conditional Resident Status for Military Family Members: (CR-1/2 or CR-6/7)

If you have a conditional resident card, a petition Form I-751 must be filed to remove conditions on residence within 90 days prior to the expiration date.  In order for the USCIS office to recognize military or government orders, you must indicate on top of Form I-751, “ACTIVE MILITARY” or “GOVERNMENT ORDERS” and submit a copy of the spouse’s current military or government orders. For more information, please contact USCIS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services via military help line military help line.

Naturalization of Family Members of U. S. Citizens Deployed Abroad:

If you are a U.S. citizen member of the U.S. Armed Forces and are or will be deployed abroad by the Armed Forces for at least one year, your family members may be eligible for expedited naturalization after completing the immigrant visa process.  For information, refer to the USCIS brochure Naturalization Information for Military Personnel Naturalization Information for Military Personnel or check with your base legal office.

Base Legal Offices:

Members of the military may be able to seek assistance of the base legal affairs office on an immigrant petition and an immigrant visa application.


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