As you may know, if a lawful permanent resident (LPR) stays outside the United States for more than a year, his “green card” can no longer be used as a valid travel document. For that reason, we have always advised clients that an LPR who has an intention of returning to his lawful residence in the United States but who plans on being abroad for an extended period, should apply for a reentry permit before departing. Though not a guarantee, the reentry permit guards against the loss of LPR status, and can serve as a travel document for LPRs who have been gone for up to two years. The initial reentry permit is valid for two years, as is a subsequent one, but if the LPR remains out of the country beyond that, the next reentry permit(s) will be issued for only one year at a time.
The regulations have always provided that the LPR must be physically present in the United States when filing for a reentry permit, though he need not remain here while the application is pending. Now, under new rules issued by USCIS, an LPR who applies for a reentry permit must also appear at an Application Support Center in the United States for a biometrics appointment. Unfortunately, after the application for a reentry permit is filed, it can take a few weeks before the biometrics notice arrives, leaving the LPR with a choice: Either he stays in the United States to await the biometrics appointment, or, if he leaves before then, he must return just for the appointment.