Immigrant Visas: Returning Resident Visa

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 the validity of green card or one year whichever shorter (for conditional resident), or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the United States 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 United States 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 green card or one year whichever is shorter (for conditional resident), the validity of the Re-entry Permit (2 years), you may be eligible and can apply at the U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh 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.

Qualifications 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.

How To apply:

Step 1 – File an Immigrant Visa Application form DS-117

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate is required. Applicants must appear in person to file a form 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. If you wish to apply for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, you should email to request an appointment in advance of your intended travel (at least two – three months in advance, if possible) to permit sufficient time for visa processing.

DS-117 Checklist of Necessary Supporting Documents

  • 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 : Completed application to determine Returning Resident Status.

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 Cambodian immigration stamp on your return to Cambodia 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.

Fee: The Application Fee  should be paid in cash at the Embassy/Consulate cashier in U.S. dollars on the day of your interview. This fee is non-refundable, regardless of any action taken on your petition.

English translations of all documents written in a foreign language.

Step 2 – Apply for an Immigrant Visa

If returning resident status is approved, the applicant will need to apply for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, and the applicant must be eligible for the immigrant visa in all other respects in order to be issued a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate will provide you with specific instructions for the remainder of the processing for your Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa.

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 United States, 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.