Green Card Holders: Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), including conditional lawful permanent residents, who have stayed remained outside the United States for more than one year, or past the validity period of a reentry permit given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), typically are required to apply for and get a returning resident (SB1) visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before traveling back to the U.S. This overview of the SB1 immigrant visa is provided for the benefit of MurthyDotCom readers.
Background on Absences Outside the U.S. | Green Card Holders
An absence of one year or longer is presumed to be an abandonment of the LPR status and the green card holder typically is no longer considered a valid entry document into the U.S. Where an extended absence is anticipated, an LPR might file form I-131 with the USCIS to request a re-entry permit, which typically is valid for re-entry within two years. This application should be filed before departure from the U.S.
Criteria to Apply for the SB1 Returning Resident Visa
An SB1 candidate should prove to the consular official that failure to get back to the U.S. was based on special circumstances beyond that person’s control. Specifically, it should be demonstrated to the consular officer that the candidate:
- Had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departing the U.S.
- Planned to get back to the U.S. and has not abandoned that intention
- Is getting back to the U.S. from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was extended, this was caused by reasons beyond the applicant’s control
SB1 Application Process
First, the candidate should apply to determine returning resident status (form DS-117) at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Moreover, the candidate will need to submit evidence proving eligibility for SB1 status. Instances of possible evidence include one’s green card, re-entry permits, airline tickets, and passport stamps to prove dates of travel outside of the U.S., and evidence of economic and social ties to the U.S. to demonstrate that, at the time of departure, the candidate intended to return to the U.S. after a temporary visit abroad.
A consular official then will determine if the candidate qualifies for an SB1 immigrant visa. If it is decided that the individual qualifies, the consular officer will give specific instructions for completing the SB1 visa application process. While guidelines might differ by department, these are probably going to include directions for the medical examination. Along with a list of required vaccinations and documentation required for the SB1 visa interview, for example:
- Original passport
- Immigrant visa and alien registration application (form DS-260)
- A list of other documents that the applicant must bring to the immigrant visa interview, as requested by the consulate
- Two photographs
At the time of this writing, the filing fee for the DS-117 form is $180. If the candidate is approved for the SB1 visa, an extra processing fee of $205 for form DS-260 is required. Separate charges also are required for the medical exam and vaccination/s. The candidate should consult the site of the local U.S. office to confirm the amounts. When fee payments should be made, and the appropriate payment methods.
Visa candidates should be aware that SB1 visa applications are subject to the sole discretion of the consular officer. LPRs who have stayed outside of the U.S. for long durations are advised to consult. Also, with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer for help with the SB1 immigrant visa application.