The Returning Resident Visa (SB-1): 

What is it?  What are the basic requirements?  What is the process?

What is a Returning Resident Visa?

If a former Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), who has been out of the United States (hereafter U.S.) for more than a year, now wants to regain his/her status, the returning resident visa may be a viable route for this reinstatement. One may lose LPR status if one stays outside the U.S. for more than a year without a re-entry permit or if one stays outside the U.S. for more than 2 years with a re-entry permit.

What are the eligibility requirements to apply?

In order to file this application, the applicant must be able to demonstrate the following:

  • At the time of departure, you had the LPR status;
  • At the time of departure, you had every intention of returning and you have not abandoned this intent;
  • Your stay outside the U.S. was due to reasons completely out of your control.

Who is not eligible?

A Conditional Resident, who did not file an application to have the conditions removed, is not eligible to apply for the Returning Resident Status. An individual who filed an Abandonment of Permanent Resident Status (Form I-407) is not eligible to apply for Returning Resident Status.

What is the process?  What forms need completion?  What is the cost?

The first step is to apply for the Returning Resident immigrant visa (SB-1).  The applicant must contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, if considering applying for a Returning Resident immigrant visa (SB-1).  The applicant must refer to the specific website of the chosen Embassy or Consulate, as each has specific instructions.

To apply for the Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, the following forms and documents will be required:

  • Completed Form DS-117
  • Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551
  • Provide Re-entry Permit (if applicable)

(Note:  Always check the local Embassy or Consulate website for specific instructions.)

Other documents that could provide support to your case are:

  • Proof of strong ties to the US and intent to not abandon status (Examples: socio-economic and familial ties, tax returns, property in the US, Bank Accounts, etc.)
  • Proof of travel (Examples: plane tickets and dates of travel to and from the U.S.)
  • Proof that the lengthy stay outside the US was NOT in your control (Examples: medical issues that left you severely ill, accompanying a U.S. citizen spouse, due to a family issue you could not access your documents to leave the country, etc.) Reasons such as taking take of an older relative or not returning due to employment issues are not necessarily sufficient reasons.

(Note:  The above list of documents is not exhaustive and hence, it may be wise to seek guidance from an immigration attorney regarding your particular case.)

Once you file the application, a Consular Officer will review the supporting documents and application to ascertain whether your application meets the requirement for the Returning Resident (SB-1) status.  Next the Consular Officer will conduct an interview based on the application and its supporting documents.  The fees required for determining Returning Resident Status, Form DS-117 are $180, non-refundable. Paying the fees is not a guarantee that the Returning Resident Status will be approved.

What happens if the application is approved?

If the application is approved, then you have six months to apply for an immigrant visa.  In addition to attending another interview, you will need to pay the immigrant visa processing fee of $205 and complete a medical exam and pay vaccination fees.

What happens if the application is denied?

If the application is denied, then it could result in the determination that you have abandoned your LPR status.  You would have the option of filing a brand new immigrant petition (if still eligible).

Some concluding thoughts

It is difficult to reinstate a Green Card (LPR Status) when one has spent an extended period of time outside the U.S. The approval rates for initial Returning Resident (SB-1) visa approvals are low. To successfully secure a Returning Resident visa (SB-1) approval, an applicant must convince the Consular Officer that his/her ties to the U.S. were maintained and staying outside the U.S. was completely out of the control of the applicant. This is not an easy task. For those LPR’s with potential extended stays outside the U.S., the golden rule is to consider seeking a re-entry permit prior to departure from the U.S.

Author: Attorney Shobhana R. Kasturi is an immigration attorney practicing in the Chicagoland Area.

This article authored by Shobhana Kasturi was originally printed in the India Tribune, 2016

The content of this article is general in nature and not meant to constitute legal advice. The content of this article is not meant to and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Any recipients of the content of this article should not take action or refrain from taking action based on the information.  Please seek appropriate legal advice based on the facts from an attorney licensed to provide such advice.