A permanent resident (called “Lawful Permanent Resident” or “LPR”) or conditional resident alien who has remained outside the U.S. for more than one year or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit (Form I-327), will require a new immigrant visa to enter the U.S. and resume permanent residence. A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa (SB-1) to an LPR who remained outside the U.S. more than one year due to circumstances beyond his/her control.
When your application for returning resident status is approved, you will not receive a visa that will allow you to travel to the U.S. The approval of the returning resident application is only the first step in a two- step process. It only 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 at a later date for the actual immigrant visa. An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa, which includes the payment of the immigrant visa fees, a medical examination, and numerous documentary requirements. If needed administrative processing might be required.
NOTE: The approval rate of initial SB-1 applications is low. The majority of applicants fail to present convincing evidence that their prolonged absence of over 365 days was caused by reasons beyond their control. If applicants have the option of filing a new petition with USCIS they should explore that route before applying for an SB-1.
Under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 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 U.S.;
- Departed from the U.S. with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention; and
- Are returning to the U.S. after a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was prolonged, this was caused by reasons beyond your control for which you were not responsible.