Returning Resident Visas
Go to FAQ
A permanent resident (called lawful permanent resident or LPR) or conditional resident (CR) who has remained outside the U.S. for longer than one year, or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit, 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 to an LPR who remained outside the U.S. due to circumstances beyond his/her control. This webpage is about Returning Resident Visas. If you are an LPR unable to return to the U.S. within the travel validity period of the green card (1 year) or the validity of the Re-entry Permit (2 years), you may be eligible and can apply at Tokyo or Naha for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa.
If your application for returning resident status is approved, this 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 usually later for the immigrant visa. An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and have a medical examination.
Spouse or Child of a Member of the U.S. Armed Forces or Civilian Employee of the U.S. Government Stationed Abroad - Please review the exemption for the spouse or child of a military member
Qualifying for Returning Resident Status
Under provisions of immigration law, 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. from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.
Step 1 – Applying For a Returning Resident Visa
If you wish to apply for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, you should contact the U.S. Embassy Tokyo or Consulate General Naha in advance of your intended travel (at least three months in advance, if possible) to permit sufficient time for visa processing. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate is required. Please complete the Interview Request Form to request an appointment. Due to security concerns and space constraints, only those with appointments will be admitted.
Applicants must appear in person to file a DS-117 and pay the application fee. Do not schedule an appointment until you have read the instructions carefully and assembled ALL of the necessary documents on the DS-117 Checklist below.
DS-117 Checklist of Necessary Supporting Documents
- English translations of all foreign language documents are required. Any foreign language document must be accompanied by a full English translation that the translator has certified as complete and correct. The translator must certify that he/she is competent to translate the foreign language into English. It is not necessary to have the translation notarized.
- It is strongly recommended that applicants keep a duplicate file copy of all documents submitted in connection with the application. The embassy does not provide copying services.
|Form DS-117 (PEF 296KB): Completed application to determine Returning Resident Status
|Forms DS-230 Part I and Part II (PDF 175KB): Completed application for immigrant visa and alien registration. Part I - Biographic Data, Part II - Sworn Statement
|Form I-551 and/or Form I-327, if available: Original “green card” and/or “re-entry permit”, if available
|Applicant’s original passport(s): Current and/or old passport(s) showing your identity, admission into the United States as a legal permanent resident, and the Japanese immigration stamp on your return to Japan from the U.S.
|Proof of ties to the U.S. and intent to return: U.S. tax returns and evidence of economic, family, and social ties to the United States.
|Evidence of stay abroad for reasons beyond the applicant's control: Evidence that the protracted stay abroad was beyond your control (e.g., medical incapacitation, employment with U.S. company, accompanying a U.S. citizen spouse).
|Application fee (It is non-refundable, even if you are found ineligible for returning resident status.)
|English translations of all documents written in a foreign language.
Step 2 – Immigrant Visa Application and Documentation
If returning resident status is approved, the applicant will need to apply for an immigrant visa within six months from the date of approval. The U.S. Embassy Tokyo or Consulate General Naha will provide you with specific instructions for the immigrant visa application.
If Your Application to Determine Returning Resident Status is NOT Approved
If, after reviewing your Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, Form DS-117, and supporting documents, the Consular Officer determines that you do not meet the criteria for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa on the grounds that you have abandoned or relinquished your residence in the U.S., it may or may not be possible to obtain a nonimmigrant visa depending on whether you have established a residence abroad to which you will return. If you cannot submit convincing evidence of compelling ties abroad, you may have to apply for an immigrant visa on the same basis and under the same category by which you immigrated originally.
About International Travel and Permanent Residents
As a permanent resident, before you depart the U.S. for temporary travel abroad and then seek to return to the U.S., you should review important information on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) websites. Learn about Travel Documents including Re-Entry Permits and Form I-131, Application for Travel Document , on the USCIS website. For information for permanent residents returning to the U.S. from travel abroad, review the CBP website.
Returning Legal Permanent Residents Who Obtained Such Status Based on Asylum Status: Asylum applicants, asylees, and lawful permanent residents who obtained such status based on their asylum status are subject to special rules with regard to traveling outside the U.S. For more information on obtaining proper documentation before you depart the U.S., see Benefits and Responsibilities of Asylees on the USCIS website.