Integrity Legal

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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