How Long Can a Person Stay Outside the USA on a Reentry Permit?

How Long Can a Person Stay Outside the USA on a Reentry Permit?

My friend is a green card holder. She came to the US last year and left the US after 4 months. She filed for a reentry permit, but she left before she received it. According to the instructions on the form, she can live outside from September 2007 to September 2009. My question is when should she come back, as she already left in February 2007?
— Anonymous

It appears that your friend properly filed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, requesting a re-entry permit as a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Re-entry permit applicants are required to file the I-131 before they travel abroad. As an aside, it is important to note that the rules have changed since your friend filed because now all Applicants are required to appear to have their biometrics (fingerprints) taken at an Application Support Center in The USA, with a few exceptions.

Once filed, it is okay for the Applicant to depart from the United States before the permit is received because a departure does not affect the validity of the document and it can be picked up at an overseas office. Upon re-entry after being outside the United States for more than one year, the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer will inquire into whether you may have abandoned your permanent residency.

Generally, a permanent resident should use a re-entry permit when s/he is going to be outside the United States for more than one year because it prevents the CBP officer from relying solely on the length of your trip as a basis for determining whether you abandoned your permanent resident status. The CBP officer can still ask other questions relating to abandonment of residency if s/he feels that it may have occurred.
Furthermore, just because a returning permanent resident has a re-entry permit in hand does not necessarily mean that s/he will be granted admission to the United States. S/he is still subject to the admissibility laws pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that regulate admission to the United States.

It is in the CBP officer¿s discretion to admit her into the United States. If the CBP officer feels that she abandoned her residency because of her long absence and her reasons for the absence, then she will be denied admission to the United States.

The re-entry permit does not guarantee admission. Generally, your friend should try to avoid extended absences from the United States and should be ready for questions relating to her extended absence and abandonment upon her re-entry to the United States. If she has further questions, she should consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can explain to her all of her options.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys