Pandemic Poses Potential Re-Entry Problems for Lawful Permanent Residents Abroad


We are now several weeks beyond the one-year anniversary of the declaration by the World Health Organization recognizing COVID-19 as a global pandemic. While historic vaccine rollout accelerates across the United States, worldwide vaccine distribution efforts display inequities elsewhere. Moreover, travel restrictions, lockdowns, quarantine orders and reluctant travelers remain commonplace. These barriers create certain risks for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) who are abroad.

LPRs should be aware of the strict constraints placed on the length of their travel outside of the U.S. When long-term international travel is anticipated or planned, residents should apply for a re-entry permit prior to their U.S. departure, to preserve their status for up to a two-year period. However, for many, geographic location at the onset of the pandemic was outside of their control.

LPRs who travel internationally for the following periods are subject to the respective presumptions:


If you are an LPR who has been outside of the U.S. for more than one year, without applying for a re-entry permit (or you have remained outside of the U.S. beyond the validity of your re-entry permit), you are generally believed to have abandoned your permanent resident status.

To return to the U.S. on an immigrant visa and resume permanent residence, you will need to consider making an application for an SB-1 Returning Resident visa. This application should be submitted to your local U.S. consulate and will be subject to consular processing delays as many posts are currently experiencing limited appointment availability, a backlog of applications, and reduced staff. Furthermore, qualification for an SB-1 visa will not be automatic. Additional criteria must be evaluated to determine your eligibility for this benefit.

At this time, U.S. agencies have not announced policy exceptions to these rules. We are monitoring these issues closely and should circumstances change in the future, we will provide supplemental information to explain such changes.

The information included above is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing individualized legal advice. Please consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding the subject matter discussed in this post.