Everyone who receives a Green Card is considered a US Lawful Permanent Resident. These people can work and live permanently in the United States. Holders of the Green Card can also travel to other countries for temporary periods.
If you leave the United States and can not return to the United States for reasons beyond your control, you can petition for an SB1 visa or returning resident visa.

How To Apply For US Returning Resident Visa?

What is the US returning resident visa?

This visa is for those who have an immigrant visa or a Green Card. Immigrant visa holders will be eligible for the visa if they travel temporarily to another country but are unable to return to the United States for some reasons beyond their control.

The Green Card is valid for one year. This means that if you travel to another country, you must return to the United States within a year. If you are going to stay where you will stay for more than a year, you must apply for a Re-entry Permit. This permission is valid for up to two years. If you have not been able to return to the United States during these two years, you can apply for this visa.

Acceptable reasons for not being able to return to the United States include:

  • Sudden onset of illness
  • Pregnancy
  • Family quarrel during which travel documents are taken from you
  • You need a permit to leave the country, which you are not able to obtain.

Compared to other immigrant visas, the visa application process is more straightforward. Because you do not need a petitioner and USCIS approvals for this visa, on the other hand, the processing time for this visa is not very long. Anyone who has been out of the United States for more than two years and wants to return to live in this country must apply for this visa.  Although some people do not need this visa, for example:

  • Children and spouses of members of the US Armed Forces
  • US government civilian employees living abroad

These people can still return to the United States, even if their residency status expires without applying for an SB-1 visa.

If you stay outside the United States for more than one or two years and do not apply for an SB1 visa when you return, immigration officers will probably not allow you to enter because those who live in another country despite having immigration status show that they have voluntarily renounced their immigrant visa. These people can apply for non-immigrant visas, but they can no longer ask for immigrant visas. In this case, the only way to return to the United States is to apply for returning visa.

Note that even if US authorities allow you to enter, within the next few months, you will receive a warrant to leave the country. To avoid this, we recommend that you apply for the SB visa immediately.

Do you like to know how to move to the US as a teacher? Read this article.

What are the requirements for this visa?

To be eligible for this visa, you must consider the following:

  • You were a lawful permanent resident of the United States before leaving the country.
  • The reason you did not return to the United States must be beyond your control.
  • You must still be eligible to retain your previous immigrant visa status.
  • You had intentions to return to the US after your temporary stay and still intend to reside in the US.

If you can meet all the mentioned conditions, you can apply for the US returning resident visa.

How to apply for the US returning resident visa?

Like US green card by lottery, the application process for this visa is not very complicated. You do not need a sponsor, such as your family members or an employer. Therefore, you can apply for your immigrant visa directly from the beginning. To do this, you must first go to the US Embassy in your country of residence.

The documents you must provide for the SB1 visa are:

  • Complete and submit Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident.
  • You must provide Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, or Green Card. You had this form before leaving the United States.
  • Provide your Re-entry Permit.
  • Provide the following documents:
    • Dates of planned travel outside the US such as your airline ticket or passport stamp
    • Evidence of intention to return, such as employment contracts, tax returns, and more.
    • You need to prove that you stayed outside the US for reasons beyond your control, including illness.

After submitting the documents, the US embassy must decide whether you are eligible for an SB1 visa. If they determine that you are qualified for this visa, you must complete the following steps:

  • Submit Form DS-260. You have already submitted this form during the initial visa application process.
  • Perform the necessary medical examinations.
  • Provide the following documents:
    • Form DS-260 confirmation page
    • Documents related to medical examinations
    • Passport
    • Two photos

How much does it cost to petition for the SB1 visa?

If you intend to apply for an SB1 visa, you should know that you have to pay a fee for each of the following services:

  • File Form DS-117
  • Form DS-260 processing
  • Perform medical examinations
  • Translation of documents into English
  • Receive supporting documents

Remember that if you do not pay these fees, your visa application will not be examined.

How long does it take to assess the documents and issue the visa?

Fortunately, the SB1 visa processing time is not very long. But this largely depends on the workload of the embassy. The average processing time for this visa is three to six months.

What if the visa application is rejected?

As mentioned, the decision to grant an SB1 visa is the responsibility of the embassy. If the embassy confirms that you are qualified, you will then receive your visa. Otherwise, the visa application will be rejected.
If the visa application is rejected, you can not get the US returning resident visa so you can not re-enter the United States. In this case, you have to begin the application process for an immigrant visa from the beginning. In other words, you first need a sponsor, such as family members or a US employer. The sponsor must first file a petition to the USCIS. If the petition is approved, you must initiate the visa application process.

Let’s sum up…

In the previous paragraphs, we tried to go into important detail about the US returning resident visa such as requirements, the application process, processing time, and costs.

If you have experience getting a visa, share it via the comment section with other readers and us. Because conveying your experiences helps others make better decisions. We are also happy to share your helpful comments and recommendations with us.

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  1. Maye says:

    Is there a way I can obtain the returning resident visa sooner than 3 months?

    • support says:

      It depends on the workload of the embassy. However, the average time is 3 to 6 months.

  2. Armando says:

    If I can not leave a foreign country due to war or political conflict, can I still apply for a returning resident visa?

  3. Jim says:

    My mother in law had her SB1 approved in Colombia in 04/22 and was told that the official LPR card would be sent to her. The passport was stamped with a temporary 6 month visa, which has expired. Are we missing something in order to get her PR Card?

    • M-behroozi says:

      Dear Jim,
      I don’t know all the details about your case. Why don’t you contact the embassy and ask them?

  4. M-behroozi says:

    Dear Jim,
    I don’t know all the details about your case. Why don’t you contact the embassy and ask them?