Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘SB-1 Visa’

2nd July 2010

Those American Immigrants who remain outside of the United States for prolonged periods are strongly advised to either obtain a Re-Entry Permit or make certain that their absences from the United States comport with their lawful status in the USA. That said, in those cases where a lawful permanent resident has been overseas for a long period of time and wishes to go back to the United States for purposes of reestablishing their residence they may opt to apply for an SB-1 Returning Resident Visa.

Recently the Department of State announced changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual’s guidelines for issuance of SB-1 visas the following is a direct quote from the aforementioned announcement made available by AILA:

9 FAM 42.22 Notes has been updated to provide guidance on the processing of applications for special immigrant Returning Resident (SB) visas for lawful permanent resident (LPR) aliens who were unable to return to the United States within the validity of their I‐551 Permanent Resident Card or reentry permit. The guidance covers where applicants are able to file their DS‐117 Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, how post should process such applications, and new procedures for the creation of a permanent refusal record for denied DS‐117 applications.

Returning Residents must have their case re-adjudicated by a Consular Officer prior to returning to the USA to take up residence. The announcement went on to further note:

You [the Consular Officer] must conduct a personal interview with the applicant to determine whether the application for Returning Resident status is approvable…If you determine that the applicant has provided sufficient justification and evidence in accordance with 9 FAM 42.22 N1.1‐7, then you must obtain supervisory approval from a consular manager, mark form DS‐117 as approved, open a case in Immigrant Visa Overseas (IVO), and scan in the approved form DS‐117 and supporting documents…If the application is denied, you should enter [redacted] scanned copies of form DS‐117 and all supporting documents, and also enter notes supporting the denial decision.

As this author has stated repeatedly on this blog, those who may be outside of the United States of America for a period lasting longer than 6 months are well advised to apply for, and hopefully obtain, a US reentry permit. This travel document would allow the lawful permanent resident to remain abroad for up to two years without raising the presumption of residential abandonment. That said, there are always extenuating circumstances where an individual was unable to obtain a reentry permit and thereby placed their lawful status in jeopardy. For these individuals, an SB-1 visa may be the necessary travel document to reestablish lawful status.

For further reading about Consular Processing at the US Embassy in Bangkok please see: US Embassy Thailand.

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26th December 2009

For Thai-American couples the most common method of immigrating to the USA is through use of a K1 visa. The K1 visa is a fiancee visa granting the bearer 90 days of lawful presence in the United States of America with the option to apply for adjustment of status. If an adjustment of status application is submitted and approved then the Thai fiancee will be granted conditional lawful permanent residence for 2 years. After nearly 2 years the couple should submit a petition for a lift of conditions of the Thai spouse’s permanent residence. Should this petition receive approval, the Thai spouse will become an unconditional lawful permanent resident of the United States of America.

There are some travel restrictions placed upon permanent residents of the United States. Namely, they cannot be outside of the USA for more than one year without endangering their resident status in the USA. For those who remain abroad for more than one year it may be necessary to apply for an SB-1 visa. This is a visa specifically meant for returning residents of the USA. For those who plan to be outside of the USA for a substantial period of time there is a way to forestall a finding of residential abandonment: a US reentry permit. This is a travel document that is very similar to advance parole in so far as it preserves the status of the lawful permanent resident while they remain abroad. These travel documents are generally granted with a validity period of 2 years from issuance.

Recently, this author came into contact with an individual who had lawful permanent resident status in the US, but had lost his Resident Alien Card (“Green Card”) and needed to return to the US. This individual still had a valid US reentry permit. After some research, this author discovered that a United States lawful permanent resident may reenter the country without a proper visa provided that they have a valid United States reentry permit.

To directly quote from the website of the US Embassy in Mumbai:

“Per 8CFR 211.1, an alien in possession of a valid form I-327, Permit to reenter the United states (i.e. reentry permit), does not require a visa to reenter the United States.  Therefore, [one] may travel [to the USA] with [only one's] valid reentry permit.”

In a way, the United States reentry permit is akin to a passport for lawful permanent residents although it is inherently more restrictive than a US passport. For those lawful permanent residents thinking of leaving the USA for a prolonged period of time it may be wise to seriously consider applying for a reentry permit because it provides not only the peace of mind that comes from preserving one’s status, it can also act as a backup travel document in the event one loses their resident alien card.

For related information please see our postings about losing a US passport and obtaining a new one from American Citizen Services at a US Consulate in Thailand.

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