Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

Reentry Permits Articles

Reentry Permit Renewal and Surrendering of Current Document

Our office serves many first-time and returning reentry permit applicants and our clients and readers often want to know the options for extending (technically, obtaining a new) reentry permit if their circumstances  require continued stay outside of the United States.    We have addressed the renewal options and strategies in earlier articles; however, an additional follow-up concern we often hear is whether (and how) should the current reentry permit document  be surrendered when applying for a renewal reentry permit.

Does Reentry Permit Renewal Application Require Surrendering of the Current Reentry Permit Document?

The answer depends on when the renewal reentry permit application is being filed, when the biometrics are completed and, ultimately, when USCIS is about to review and, hopefully, approve the renewal reentry permit application.    Pursuant to the relevant regulations, a reentry permit application cannot be approved if the applicant already has been issued a reentry permit and the current reentry permit is valid (not expired and the document is not lost/destroyed).  In this situation, USCIS will expect the current and valid document to be surrendered before the renewal application can be approved — often, at the time of adjudication, USCIS would issue a request for evidence (RFE) and ask for the current valid reentry permit document to be surrendered before the new application can be approved.

At the same time, if the current reentry permit has already expired at the time a renewal reentry permit application is being adjudicated, USCIS will not normally require the current (and expired) reentry permit to be surrendered as part of a renewal reentry permit application.

Timing Strategies for Surrendering Existing Reentry Permit When Filing for Renewal

With these rules and normal practices in mind, the question is, What is the best strategy for surrendering a reentry permit when filing for a renewal?     Needless to say, each case is different and this article does not substitute the advice and assistance of an attorney.   With this in mind and based on our extensive daily experience with reentry permits, we have found that often it makes  most sense to file a renewal application (see our recommended timing strategies) without surrendering the current valid reentry permit as part of the initial application.

Not surrendering the existing valid reentry permit document with the renewal application allows the reentry permit holder to continue use the current reentry permit for any additional travels into the United States for the duration of the renewal process.   Afterwards, once the required reentry permit process biometrics are completed and when USCIS adjudicator takes on the case for review and approval, if the existing reentry permit continues to remain valid, USCIS will issue an RFE (sent to the attorney of record and applicant’s address) and ask for the existing reentry permit to be surrendered.

At that time, having this (relative) piece of mind that the reentry permit renewal process is going well, the reentry permit applicant can surrender the reentry permit and expect to receive the renewal within a short time.

Conclusion

The reentry permit renewal process has several very important considerations and strategies.    But based on the rationale described in this article and our experience handling hundreds of reentry permits every year,  it often makes most sense to wait and surrender the reentry permit only at the final stages of adjudication of the renewal application.   This approach has worked well for many clients in retaining the reentry permit benefits during the document’s validity term and obtaining a new document with the longest possible term.

Our office has a special reentry permit division where we handle reentry permits on a daily basis for a variety of green card applicant situations and we will be delighted to discuss and, possibly, help throughout the application process.    Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments or complete the case evaluation and quote form if we can be of any assistance with this or related immigration-related issues.  We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.

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U.S. Permanent Residents (and Citizens) Must Declare and Pay U.S. Taxes on Worldwide Income

The United States is one of the few (if not the only one) countries in the world which taxes its citizens and permanent residents on the basis of their worldwide income.  As a result, U.S. permanent residents (and citizens) who decide to live and work outside of the U.S. on a temporary basis are normally required to declare and pay U.S. tax on their foreign income regardless of the source of such income.  This is true whether or not the U.S. green card holder receives a Form W-2, 1099 or similar tax document.  This article focuses on the tax filing of U.S. permanent residents and the immigration implications of their tax filings (or the lack thereof).

U.S. Permanent Residents Must File Tax Returns Even if Residing and Working Abroad

A U.S. citizen or, for the purpose of this article, permanent resident alien (green card holder) living or traveling outside the U.S., is generally required to file U.S. income tax returns, estate tax returns, and gift tax returns and pay estimated tax in the same way as those taxpayers residing in the United States.

The permanent resident is required to file a U.S. tax return if their gross income from worldwide sources is at least the amount shown for their filing status in the Filing Requirements table in Chapter 1 of Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.  For example, for 2014, single taxpayers who have worldwide income from all sources in excess of $10,150 must file a tax return with the IRS.  Factors such as taxpayer’s income, filing status, and age generally determine whether a permanent resident (regardless of residence or source of income) must file a tax return.  Please review Publication 54 mentioned above for more details.

Gross Income Must be Declared

Now that we know that a U.S. green card holder living temporarily abroad must declare their worldwide income, the question is, What kind of income is included?

IRS requires that all income received in the form of money, goods, property, and services that is not exempt from tax be included and declared. In determining whether a U.S. permanent resident must file a tax return, the taxpayer must consider as gross income any income that was excluded as foreign earned income or as a foreign housing amount. If the taxpayer is self-employed (in the U.S.  or abroad), their gross income includes the amount on the Gross Income line of Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss from Business, or the Gross Receipts line of Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit from Business.

Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Disclosure Required

Additionally, FinCEN Report 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) (formerly TD F 90-22.1), must be filed if a taxpayer has had a financial interest in, or signature or other authority over, a bank, securities, or other financial account in a foreign country, the value of which exceeds $10,000. A report is not required if the assets are with a U.S. military banking facility operated by a U.S. financial institution or if the combined assets in the account(s) are $10,000 or less during the entire year.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and Foreign Housing Exclusion and Deduction

As discussed herein, U.S. citizen and U.S. permanent residents living abroad are taxed on their worldwide income. However, they may qualify to exclude from income up to $99,200 of their foreign earnings. In addition, they can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts.

There are certain eligibility requirements for these exclusions and deductions so a tax professional’s help may be required.  We should caution, however, that from immigration standpoint, a U.S. permanent resident’s use of such exclusions may be an indication that the taxpayer is not maintaining their U.S. residence during the tax period in question – therefore, preventing or at least delaying a possible U.S. naturalization application.

Timing of Tax Return Filing

U.S. citizen or green card holders (and certainly military members) who are residing overseas are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file their tax return and pay any amount due without requesting an extension.  For a calendar year tax return, the automatic 2-month extension is June 15. If the taxpayer qualifies for this 2-month extension, penalties for paying any tax late are assessed from the 2-month extended due date of the payment (June 15 for calendar year taxpayers). However, even if the taxpayer is allowed an extension, the taxpayer will have to pay interest on any tax not paid by the regular due date of the tax return (April 15 for calendar year taxpayers).

U.S. Permanent Residents’ Tax Obligations and Immigration

The filing requirements outlined above, especially as they are applicable to U.S. permanent residents, have important (and often overlooked) implications with respect to immigration.  Most frequently, the issues arise in the context of an application for a reentry permit or for naturalization application to become a U.S. citizen.

I-131 Reentry Permit Applications

Permanent residents who are spending an extended period of time abroad often apply for and obtain a reentry permit which allows them to spend an extended period of time abroad without losing their green card.  The reentry permit application seeks to establish the permanent resident applicant’s compliance with the U.S. tax laws, and specifically to determine whether the permanent resident applicant has filed U.S. taxes as a non-resident OR if they have not filed U.S. taxes because they considered themselves as non-residents.

It is important to note that sometimes, as described in this article, U.S. permanent residents residing abroad and deriving foreign income may not have to file for a U.S. tax return (for example, as mentioned above, if the permanent resident is single and has less than $10,150 then they may not even have to file a tax return).  However, if the permanent resident derives worldwide income requiring them to file a tax return, the U.S. government would expect that such tax return be filed as a U.S. permanent resident.

If a U.S. permanent resident has filed a U.S. tax return as a non-resident  or if a tax return was not filed because the U.S. permanent resident considered themselves to be a non-resident for tax purposes, a reentry permit application may face significant scrutiny or even a denial.  Our office will be happy to assist in evaluating reentry permit applications and any associated risks.

N-400 Naturalization Application to Become a U.S. Citizen

The issue of payment of taxes on foreign income makes often makes an appearance in U.S. citizenship applications, N-400.  One of the relevant requirements for qualifying for U.S. citizenship is that the U.S. permanent resident applicant must have resided in the U.S. for the last five (three in certain cases of immediate relatives to U.S. citizens) years.

In certain situations, especially when the U.S. permanent resident applicant has spent considerable period of time outside of the U.S., tax returns for the last five years may have to be submitted with the N-400 citizenship application.  If the immigration service sees foreign income exclusion on the tax return for one of the recent years they may conclude that claiming such exclusion was done because the permanent resident applicant has spent considerable period of time abroad and is claiming their tax home to be that of a different country.  This, the U.S. immigration service may conclude, is an indication that the U.S. permanent resident applicant has not been maintaining U.S. residency for tax and, more importantly, for U.S. citizenship application purposes and deny the N-400 citizenship application.

To be clear, claiming foreign income exclusion does not automatically prevent a U.S. citizenship application from being approved; however, it increases the risk of scrutiny and/or denial.  Our office will be happy to assist in evaluating U.S. citizenship applications and any associated risks.

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is to correct a possible misconception that U.S. permanent residents who work abroad do not have to pay U.S. taxes.   This is not true.   As discussed above, U.S. citizens and permanent residents must declare all worldwide income in their tax filings.  Subject to certain limited exceptions, tax returns should still be filed by U.S. citizens and permanent residents living and working abroad.

Our office is ready and available to help U.S. permanent residents understand how their tax payment history may affect their U.S. reentry permit or U.S. citizenship applications.  Our office has a special reentry permit division where we handle reentry permits on a daily basis for a variety of green card applicant situations and we will be delighted to discuss and, possibly, help throughout the application process.    Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments, or if we can be of any assistance with this or related immigration-related issues.  We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.

Please note that this is not legal advice and please also note that our practice is limited to U.S. immigration law.  We handle U.S. immigration matters (such as reentry permit, naturalization applications and many more) but we do not handle tax issues or questions.  We suggest you contact a CPA or a tax attorney for any questions pertaining to U.S. tax laws.

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Reentry Permit Timing Strategies and Considerations

U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) who spend extended period of time are likely (or should be) aware that the reentry permit is a document, issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) allowing its holder to remain outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time without causing their green card to be considered abandoned (or facing hostile questioning at the U.S. port of entry).       However, during the reentry permit application process, one of the main factors of success is the careful planning for the application filing and completing the required biometrics.

Filing of Reentry Permit Requires Physical Presence in the United States

The reentry permit regulations require that the green card holder applicant be in the U.S. physically at the time of filing.   The time of filing refers to the date USCIS receives the reentry permit application and start processing it – and normally this is the day FedEx delivers the application documents to USCIS.

Because of this requirement, reentry permit applicants, and especially those who are abroad and are considering filing a reentry permit application, must carefully plan the timing of their travels to the U.S. and coordinate their reentry permit application filing (with their attorneys, if they use an attorney for the filing).   It is generally okay for the application to be received by USCIS on the day the applicant has landed in the U.S.  In fact, our office routinely plans the filing of reentry permit applications for our green card holders who reside abroad in such way to ensure the application is filed on the day of arrival or the first available business day afterwards in order to maximize the time the green card holder has in the U.S. in order to complete the required biometrics appointment during the same trip to the US.

The Required Biometrics Must be Done in the U.S. Only

In addition to the requirement that the applicant must be in the US at the time of filing of the reentry permit application, the reentry permit process requires the applicant to submit to required biometrics – digital fingerprinting and digital photo.   This is a required step and must be completed even if the applicant has done biometrics previously (even if it was recently).    Normally, several weeks after filing USCIS issues a biometrics appointment notice and mails to the applicant inviting them to appear and have their biometrics taken.

When our office files reentry permit applications and when we request expedited processing of the biometrics appointment (which we often do), USCIS is able to schedule the biometrics appointment in anywhere between two and four weeks from the filing date.   As a result, reentry permit applicants should consider the timing of their biometrics process when they plan for reentry permit.     One option is to plan to remain in the US for at least 3-4 weeks in order to do the filing and the biometrics during the same trip to the US.

Another option is to do two trips – one short trip to the US for filing of the application and then, within no more than 120 days of the date of filing, taking another trip to the US to complete the required biometrics.   Traveling to the US again for biometrics makes this an expensive alternative, but it is an option nonetheless for green card holders who are unable to remain in the US for 3-4 weeks at a time to do filing and biometrics during a single trip.    In addition to continental US, the required biometrics can be completed in Guam or Hawaii which makes it a desirable alternative to green card holders residing temporarily in the Asian region.

Conclusion

The reentry permit application process may be deceivingly straightforward, especially for green card holders who must depart the US relatively quickly or for green card holders who reside abroad.    We urge careful and early planning for the various stages of the reentry permit application process and we also urge using the services of an attorney who can coordinate the process and assist from within the US should any issues with the process arise.

Our office has a special reentry permit division where we handle reentry permits on a daily basis for a variety of green card applicant situations and we will be delighted to discuss and, possibly, help throughout the application process.    Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments, or if we can be of any assistance with this or related immigration-related issues.  We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.

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SB-1 Returning Resident – What to Do When a Green Card is Abandoned?

Many U.S. lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) who have to or choose to reside abroad are (or should be) aware that there are rules and restrictions on the time they can be outside of the U.S. and maintain their green card status.   Specifically, a stay outside of the U.S. of more than one year at a time without a reentry permit would cause automatic abandonment of one’s green card.   If this happens, there is still a procedure and a chance to seek to have the green card reinstated – this is the SB-1 Returning Resident application process.

Green Card Abandonment Rules

A green card holder who does not have a valid reentry permit and who has spent more than one year outside of the U.S. will not be allowed to enter the U.S.   8 CFR § 211.1(a).     In this case, the green card is considered to have been abandoned and the green card holder will require a new immigrant visa (if they are eligible to obtain one again by initiating a brand new green card process) to enter the U.S.      Alternatively,  the returning resident special immigrant visa allows green card holders who have remained outside of the U.S. due to circumstances beyond their  control to apply for reinstatement of the abandoned green card.

SB-1 Returning Resident Application Procedure

If the SB-1 Returning Resident application is approved,  this eliminates the requirement that a new green card petition be filed.    AS part of the SB-1 application process the green card holder will need to be interviewed for both the SB-1 application for returning resident status and usually later for the actual immigrant visa.   An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and have a medical examination.   There are visa processing fees and medical fees (plus attorney fees, if an attorney is involved).

Step 1.  Evaluate SB-1 Returning Resident Application.   The first step in the process is to evaluate and confirm that such an application is in fact required and what is the best way to approach the application in terms of presenting evidence to show that the extended stay outside of the U.S. has been due to extraordinary circumstances outside of the applicant’s control.   Evaluating and gathering documentation to demonstrate this is very important.

Step 2.  Prepare and File Application with U.S. Consulate.   The application, form plus application fees and supporting documents, is prepared and filed with a U.S. Consulate at least several months before the anticipated travel back to the U.S.    The Consulate will require an interview as part of the application process and the interview is likely going to focus on the reasons and circumstances causing the applicant to remain for more than one year outside of the U.S.

Step 3.   DS-260 and Medical Exam.   If the SB-1 application is approved, the Consulate will ask that the applicant submit a DS-260 form (used for immigrant visa applications), together with applicable fees and medical/vaccination records.    This step will ultimately result in the Consulate issuing and placing in the applicant’s passport anew I-551 (green card) stamp which would allow travel back to the U.S.

SB-1 Returning Resident Application Denial

If the SB-1 application is denied on the grounds that the applicant has abandoned or relinquished their residence in the U.S.,  the applicant may consider applying from the beginning for another green card (if they are still eligible) or they maybe able to file an application for a nonimmigrant visa (H-1B, B-1/B-2, etc.).

Factors for Successful Returning Resident Application

The key determination in an SB-1 Returning Resident application is whether the applicant was unable to travel to the U.S. due to extraordinary circumstances beyond his or her control.     The applicant for SB-1 Returning Resident Status must show:

  • That they were a lawful permanent resident when they last departed the U.S.,
  • That when they departed they intended to return to the U.S. and have maintained this intent throughout the period of stay outside of the U.S.,
  • That they are returning from a temporary visit abroad and that the extended stay was caused by reasons beyond their control and for which they were not responsible, and
  • That they are eligible for the immigrant visa in all other respects (such as criminal, health, etc. reasons).

In most SB-1 applications the main focus is on the reasons for remaining outside of the U.S. for extended period of time and how these reasons were outside of the applicant’s control.   A successful SB-1 application should be able to convince (an often skeptical consular officer) of the special circumstances by clear evidence.

Traveling Without SB-1 Approval?   Abandonment Can Occur Even After Travel to the U.S.

There are many green card holders who, intentionally or not, travel to the U.S. using their green card after having spent more than one year outside of the U.S. and without applying for SB-1 Returning Resident visa.    During U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection at the port of entry, some green card holders are confronted about their stay outside of the U.S. and many are placed in removal proceedings due to abandonment.

On the other hand, many people are admitted at the port of entry as green card holders without any further action at the port of entry.   However, an admission as a green card holder does not “fix” the abandonment issue.   It is possible, years after the fact, for the U.S. government to make a determination that the green card had been abandoned and to place the applicant in removal proceedings at that time.

When there has been stay outside of the U.S. and possible abandonment, we do not recommend traveling to the U.S. without first obtaining an SB-1 Returning Resident visa (perhaps after consulting an attorney to evaluate the situation in detail).

Conclusion

As described in this article, a green card abandoned by spending an extended period of time outside of the U.S.  is very difficult (and costly) to reinstate.   Our office always recommends erring on the side of caution and obtaining a reentry permit when there is possibility that a trip outside of the U.S. may take more than one year or if there will be a pattern of spending extended period of time abroad.     For those green card holders who are facing abandonment of their green card we would recommend carefully evaluating the type of excuses (and the supporting documents) which can allow an SB-1 Returning Resident application to be approved.

Our office has developed expertise in handling reentry permits and SB-1 Returning Resident applications in a variety of situations and we will be happy to analyze a particular situation and provide options.   Please give us some details for a free attorney reentry permit case review and options or feel free to contact us with any other questions or concerns.

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Overview of Reentry Permit Extensions and Validity Terms

Our office serves many first-time and returning reentry permit applicants and one of the most frequently asked questions or concerns related to the ability to extend a reentry permit after its initial term (of often two years) and about the validity of subsequent renewal reentry permit documents.    The good news is that there is no limit on how many times a reentry permit can be renewed but there are rules and restrictions on the validity of reentry permit renewal documents.

Unlimited Reentry Permit Renewals Are Permitted

There is no restriction on how many times a reentry permit can be renewed.    In theory, and subject to renewal term limits and renewal frequencies described below, a green card holder can apply for and obtain an unlimited number of reentry permits, thus extending their stay abroad for a number of years while preserving their green card status.

Even though a green card holder is eligible to apply for a renewal reentry permit for a number of times, each individual application is reviewed separately, on its own merits, and a prior reentry permit approval does not guarantee subsequent reentry permit renewal approvals.     However, as long as the application requirements are met and the application is properly prepared and filed and as long as the applicant submits to the required biometrics, chances of approval of a reentry permit application are good.

Reentry Permit Validity – 1-Year vs. 2-Year Terms

While the reentry permit may be renewed for a number of times, without limit, there are certain limits on the terms of renewal reentry permits.    For most reentry permit holders, their first, second and perhaps even third reentry permits will be valid for two years.   However, subsequent reentry permits may be valid for one year only.    The government has put in place regulations which restrict the validity of a reentry permit depending on how much time the applicant green card holder has spent outside of the US.    The effect of these regulations are to make it harder (and more expensive) for green card holders to remain outside of the US for more than a few years.

Here are the rules.   If a green card holder has spent more than four years total outside of the US since becoming a green card holder (or during the last five years, whichever is less), then the reentry permit will be issued with 1-year validity term.     Otherwise, for folks who have spent outside of the US less than four years, the reentry permit validity term will be the default of two years.

There are some very limited exceptions.  If the green card holder is employed by public international organization of which the U.S. is a member or is a professional athlete, then the reentry permit may be issued for two (2) years despite extended periods of absence from the US.

As a result of this rule, and with a little bit of proper application planning, many green card holders are able to get their first two to three reentry permits with a 2-year validity.   Green card holders who wish to reside outside of the US for a number of years can still do so and retain their green cards, but they will need to renew their reentry permits every year, after the first four, and each reentry permit renewal becomes an annual filing expense plus a required trip to the U.S. (or Guam, for some) for biometrics.

Conclusion

Contrary to some Internet myths and stories, there are no limits on how many times a reentry permit can be renewed.   However, there are validity term restrictions on reentry permits after spending four years or more abroad so proper planning for renewals is essential.    For green card holders who do not mind the cost and the inconvenience to apply and travel to the US for biometrics every year, it may be possible to remain abroad for a substantial period of time and still keep one’s green card status.

Our office has developed expertise in handling reentry permit in a variety of situations, including multiple renewals, and we will be happy to analyze a particular situation and provide options.   Please give us some details for a free attorney reentry permit case review and options or feel free to contact us with any other questions or concerns.

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Biometrics Codes and Reusing/Transferring Biometrics

Many of our clients and readers are familiar with the requirement to submit to biometrics (digital fingerprinting and/or photograph, please see below) in connection with certain USCIS applications.    The biometrics are often taken at USCIS Application Support Centers (ASC) after a notice, showing a specific ASC address and appointment date/time, is issued and mailed to the applicant.

Among the most common USCIS application types which require biometrics are I-485, Application to Adjust Status, I-131, Application for Travel Document (Reentry Permit) (please see our specialized Expedited Reentry Permit site), and I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.   Our office handles a fair number of these applications and we hope to provide some additional background on the biometrics process.

Biometrics Codes

Normally, an ASC Biometrics Notice would contain (in the top right area), a field named “Code.”    The “Code” field is intended to indicate the type of biometrics processing to be performed.  The possible values are:

  • Code 1 – fingerprinting only (10 prints);
  • Code 2 – biometrics (photo, signature and index finger);
  • Code 3 – fingerprints (10 prints) and biometrics (photo, signature and index finger).

USCIS has indicated that the applicable code for each biometrics appointment is determined based on the type of an application and certain relevant case factors.

Reusing/Transferring Biometrics Across Applications

A question which arises often with respect to some applicants is whether USCIS can reuse biometrics for different types of applications.   Some examples are a reentry permit applicant, who needs to renew his or her green card, or for I-485 adjustment applicant who need to apply for a reentry permit soon after I-485 approval.

The government has confirmed that they are indeed willing and able to transfer biometrics across applications; however, such flexibility is available only to military service members and their families who have unique situations regarding deployment, moving, and living overseas which affect their ability to provide fingerprints and fulfill the background check requirements.    This authority is provided by the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act, enacted on June 26, 2008, requires USCIS to use fingerprints taken for previous immigration purposes or fingerprints provided during military enlistment to complete the required naturalization fingerprint check.

Can Biometrics Be Waived?

Unfortunately, USCIS is very clear that the collection of biometrics cannot be waived with very limited waivers available for certain medical conditions (generally, medical conditions which affect the applicant’s ability to do the biometrics).

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ASC Biometrics Notice Codes

Our office often receives inquiries by clients about a piece of information displayed on the ASC Appointment Notices issued for the purpose of capturing biometrics.  Our clients are asking us what is the meaning of the “Code” field, found in the top right part of the ASC Appointment Notice.

The “Code” field is intended to indicate the type of biometrics processing to be performed.  The possible values are:

  • Code 1 – fingerprinting for 10 prints only.
  • Code 2 – photo, signature and index finger press-print;
  • Code 3 – photo, signature, index finger press-print and fingerprinting for 10 prints.
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USCIS Lockbox Procedure Adds to Expedited Reentry Permit Processing Time

Starting December 2009, USCIS started implementing changes on the way I-131 reentry permit applications are receipted and processed.   Previously, I-131 reentry permit applications were filed directly at the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) which issued receipts and, where appropriate, issued expedited processing biometrics notices.

The NSC processing of expedited processing reentry permit biometrics allowed us to have the required biometrics scheduled often within 7-10 days after filing of the I-131 reentry permit application.  This way we were able to accommodate clients who had a very limited period of stay in the U.S.

The New I-131 Reentry Permit Acceptance Procedure Delays Biometrics

Under the new procedure, all I-131 reentry permit applications are now filed at a USCIS lockbox.  The purpose of the lockbox is to accept the application and do initial processing such as issuing a receipt.  Following the initial processing, the case is transferred to the service center tasked with processing the reentry permits – NSC.

Only after the lockbox center forwards the I-131 reentry application to NSC the expedited processing biometrics appointment can be issed.  This adds an additional week or so of processing and scheduling a biometrics notice.

In light of these changes, we have had to advise our I-131 reentry permit expedited processing clients to adjust their travel accordingly and to plan on being in the U.S. 3-4 weeks (up from 2-3 weeks) to be able to accommodate their required biometrics appointment while in the U.S.

Unfortunately, USCIS has indicated that they intend to use the lockbox for the future and we do not foresee any improvement in the processing times or the efficiency of the expedited reentry permit application procedure.  USCIS has indicated that they are exploring ways to be able to process biometrics abroad; however, as of today, the biometrics can be done only in the U.S.

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Reentry Permit Validity Periods

Our office has been handling an increasing number of expedited processing Form I-131 reentry permits for legal permanent residents (“LPR”) who are or are planning to spend extended periods of time abroad and who wish to maintain their legal permanent resident status.

Reentry Permits Are Generally Valid for Two Years

One of the questions we receive very often in connection with the reentry permit applications is what would be the duration of the reentry permit, once issued.   For most of the applicants, the answer is that the reentry permit is valid for two (2) years starting from the date on which the reentry permit is issued.

But One-year Reentry Permits Are Given for Extended Absenses

However, pursuant to 8 CFR 223.2(c)(2), an LPR who, since becoming an LPR or during the past five (5) years, whichever is less, has been outside of the U.S. for more than four (4) years in the aggregate will be issued a reentry permit with validity of only one (1) year from the date of issuance.

There are exceptions.  If the LPR is employed by public international organization of which the U.S. is a member or is a professional athlete, then the reentry permit can be issued for two (2) years despite extended periods of absence from the U.S.

Conclusion

The restriction described above on the validity of reentry permits makes it important for some applicants to be able to calculate the aggregate amount of time spent outside of the U.S. for the past five years (or since becoming LPR).  Such applicants should also make plans to renew their reentry permit within one year of issuance.

Please visit our Reentry Permit and Expedited Processing page for more information.

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Rules for Rescheduling Biometrics Appointments for Reentry Permit Applications

Our firm has developed an unique expertise in processing expedited reentry permit and travel document applications.  Such applications are processed by the Nebraska Service Center (“NSC”) and in our experience, if the expedited processing request is granted, the biometric appointment may be scheduled in as little as 10-14 days.   However, even with these expedited processing timelines, sometimes the biometrics appointments may need to be rescheduled.

NSC has revised the rules for requesting rescheduling of biometrics.  NSC has indicated that they will deny all applications  where the applicant’s biometrics/fingerprinting have not been accomplished within the first 120 days of filing.  Applicants must appear for biometrics by their appointment date or request rescheduling prior to their appointment date.  The request for rescheduling must be accompanied by a reasonable excuse for failure to appear for the routinely scheduled biometrics appointment.

30-Days Permitted.  When making rescheduling requests, it is important to know that the application support centers (“ACS”) cannot reschedule the dates for more than 30 days and are instructed to provide applicants with a reschedule date within the 30-day time frame from the time of the reschedule request.   A rescheduling request seeking appointment for more than 30 days into the future will receive only up to 30 days.

Denials for Failure to Reschedule or Attend Within 120 Days.  Applicants who go overseas after filing the reentry permit/travel document application without completing the biometrics appointment and who do not timely file a request for their biometrics to be rescheduled will likely face a denial.  Also, NSC has advised that applicants should follow-up on their reschedule request to ensure that they are actually rescheduled.   Additionally, NSC has indicated that applicants who ask for rescheduling several times (which is ok) but never complete the biometrics within 120 days of the initial I-131 filing date will face a denial.

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