According to immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee, filing your reentry permit is a “must-do” prior to leaving the United States – after is too late.
Keeping your Green Card (and permanent residency status) can get dicey if you leave the United States to live elsewhere for more than six months. “A presumption comes into play that you do not want to live permanently in the United States, and therefore have abandoned your Permanent Residency Status,” explains Houston-area immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee. This may not be true. Perhaps you plan on returning, and your departure is intended to be temporary. But if you do plan on coming back to the U.S. to live, your reentry permit becomes all important.
“You’ll need to file the Reentry Permit (Form I-131) before you leave the United States,” Ms. Banerjee explains. It doesn’t end there. There is the matter of getting fingerprinted, so it is advisable to file at least a month or two prior to departure. Adds Ms. Banerjee, “You’ll also need a cover letter which includes the valid reason why you are leaving. Too often, people forget filing the I-131 before they leave, or else omit a cover letter, or worse, both.”
The reentry permit can be mailed to you or can be picked up at the U.S. Consulate near the foreign country that you are in. You can always come back and file the reentry permit again, for a two-year extension, but this act requires a valid excuse. “For instance, it’s usually not a big deal if a U.S. business transfers you to their foreign location, or if you leave to study in another country,” Ms. Banerjee explains. But if you are merely working for a foreign company in their office in your home country, you probably will not get the reentry permit. “I’ve seen cases of green cards having to be forfeited under such circumstances,” asserts M. Banerjee. Merely using the Reentry Permit is no guarantee of prolonging continuous residency requirements in support of citizenship status. “Any perceived misuse of a Reentry Permit is a surefire way to delay citizenship,” Ms. Banerjee concludes. If such a perception is allowed to establish itself in the bureaucracy of CIS, a myriad of problems can arise with the murky status. Omitting any of the steps involved with Reentry Permits can surely jeopardize what might be intended in good faith.