A permanent resident (called lawful permanent resident or LPR) or conditional resident (CR) who has remained outside the United States for longer than one year, 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 United States 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 the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa.
- This visa category is not a non-immigrant visa. You should apply well in advance of your intended travel (at least three months in advance, if possible) to permit sufficient time for visa processing.
- In order to qualify for this visa category, you must provide convincing evidence that your stay abroad over one year for green card holders was caused by reasons beyond your control and for which you were not responsible.
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. Therefore, this involves paying both visa processing fees and medical fees.
Spouse or Child of a Member of the U.S. Armed Forces or Civilian Employee of the U.S. Government Stationed Abroad – If you are the spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or of a civilian employee of the U.S. government stationed abroad on official orders, you may use your Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551, to enter the United States even if it has expired. Therefore, you would not need a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, as long as you:
- Have not abandoned your LPR status; and
- Your spouse or parent is returning to the United States.
Step 1 – Qualifying and Applying for a 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 United States;
- Departed from the United States with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention; and
- Are returning to the United States 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.
Applying for a Returning Resident Visa
If you wish to apply for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, you should apply well 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. Follow the steps shown below on how to schedule your appointment date at U.S. Consular Section, Tirana, Albania.
Schedule an Appointment Date to Determine Returning Resident Status
You must visit this https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-al/iv/, and follow these steps:
- Click on “Register”; (Note: make sure you’re viewing the immigrant visas content. Look in the bottom of the page to change it from non-immigrant to immigrant visas, if necessary.
- Click on “I am a returning U.S. Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and require re-entry authorization to the United States.”;
- Create an account;
- At this point follow the instructions to schedule an appointment. Please do not pay any visa fee. The fee is paid at the time of your appointment inside the consular section.
If for any reason you are not able to schedule your appointment online after you create an account, please contact the call center, as explained in this website, to schedule your appointment by asking the “Returning Resident” trip purpose. Please save your account details for later use.
Required Documentation for Each Applicant
At the time of you scheduled appointment to determine Returning Resident status, you will need to bring the following:
Form DS-117 (PDF 55.8 KB): Application to Determine Returning Resident Status;
Form I-551 (Green Card): Your Permanent Resident Card;
Your Re-entry Permit, if available: For information on how to get a Reentry Permit, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) guide “Get a Reentry Permit” (PDF 667.32 KB)
Application Fee: $180.00 This fee is processed only at the time of your interview inside the consular section. Cash only (U.S. dollars or Albanian Leke). Please do not pay this fee online or at any bank.
Very important: You must also bring documentary evidence of continued intent to maintain U.S. residence which may consist of, but is not limited to, the following:
- Dates of travel outside the United States (examples: airline tickets, passport stamps, etc.);
- Proof of your ties to the U.S. and your intention to return (Examples: tax returns, and evidence of economic, family, and social ties to the U.S., evidence of children’s enrollment in a U.S. school, evidence of property ownership, whether real or personal, in the United States, a driver’s license showing the same address as in I-94 form, etc.);
- Proof that your protracted stay outside of the U.S. was for unforeseen reasons and beyond your control (Examples: medical incapacitation, employment with a U.S. company, etc.). Any document not in English language must be translated in English.
Please check carefully the qualification criteria based on immigration law before you apply. Failure to submit good evidence may result in refusing your application for Returning Resident (SB-1) status.
A consular officer will review your application and supporting documents to determine whether you meet the criteria for Returning Resident (SB-1) status. If you do, you must be eligible for the immigrant visa in all other respects in order to be issued a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa.
The following are the required fees:
- Application for Determining Returning Resident Status, Form DS-117, fee of $180.00. The fee is subject to change. Select Fees for current Department of State fees. Additionally, if you are approved for Returning Resident (SB-1) status, the following fees will be required based on the immigrant visa processing explained below:
- If found qualified:
- Form DS-260 application processing fee of $205.00. The fee is subject to change. Select Fees for current Department of State fees. This fee is processed only at the time of your interview inside the U.S. Consular Section. Cash only (U.S. dollars or Albanian Leke). Please do not pay this fee online or at any bank.
- Medical exam and vaccination fees. Paid at the panel physician’s office.
Step 2 – Immigrant Visa Application and Documentation
If your application to determine returning resident status is approved, the U.S. Consular Section will provide you with an instructions package for the remainder of the processing for your Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa. These instructions will include:
Before your interview*:
- Fill out the online Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. (Preview a sample DS-260 (PDF 6.4 MB).)
- Civil documents: a) birth certificate for use abroad which costs 200 leke, b) marriage certificate, c) Ministry of Justice certificate in all names used – write on your application at the Albanian Post office that the certificate is requested for the U.S. Embassy, d) death and/or divorce certificate, if applicable; e) military certificate for males, f) third country police certificate, if applicable; g) courier registration, read here how to register.
- Copy of your passport,
- Two photographs of size 5×5 cm, meeting Photograph Requirements
*Do not collect any of the above civil documents listed in Step 2 if you were not specifically instructed by the Consular Section on your appointment date you appeared for Determining Returning Resident status.
Only after you have submitted all required items, you will receive an appointment notification for your medical examination and SB1 immigrant visa interview. You will pay the immigrant visa fee of $205.00 on your interview date. (Note: the fee is subject to change. Check here the most updated fees.) You will bring your passport and the medical examination envelope on your appointment date.
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.
For more information on Returning Residents please visit the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs webpage “Returning Resident.”
About International Travel and Permanent Residents
As a permanent resident, before you depart the United States for temporary travel abroad and then seek to return to the United States, 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 more information on maintaining permanent residence, please visit the USCIS website. For information for permanent residents returning to the United States from travel abroad, review the CBP website.